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Bee keeping in Barnsley, South Yorkshire

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The Demaree Method of Swarm Prevention

A more extreme mechanism for preventing swarms is the Demaree method of swarm prevention. The method was first explained by George Demaree in an article in the American Bee Journal in 1884. This method is similar to most methods of artificial swarming in that it relies on separating the eggs and brood from the queen although, unlike swarm control, the demaree method is more aimed at pre-emptive action before any queen cells appear.

The Demaree Method

This method splits the hive with the queen and flying bees below the queen excluder and the brood and nurse bees above. This alleviates overcrowding and prevents any swarming urge. Over the next 3½ weeks as the brood above emerges and having destroyed or removed any queen cells, the old “mother” box can be taken away leaving a full strength colony behind.


The technique is also useful for making increase. Following the split, the top box is likely to produce a number of emergency queen cells (more likely if there is a degree of separation from the box with the queen by having 2 or 3 supers between). The top box can then be split into a couple of nuclei or, a number of queen cells can be used to make up nuclei using bees from other colonies.


Other than the queen, the bees are left free to move between all the boxes of the split colony during the process. Thus the colony remains at full strength throughout.



Preparation

This method requires an additional brood box with foundation (preferably drawn) but other than this, requires no other special equipment.



Keys to success

The keys to the success of this method are:






Method



Step 1:

Have prepared a second brood box with foundation (some of which should ideally be drawn).


Step 2:

Remove the roof and supers and place the old brood box to one side. Place the new brood box on the old floor and remove 2 frames from the centre to create a space.


Step 3:

Find the queen* and place her and a frame of brood (with unsealed brood) in the centre of the new brood box. Ensure there are no queen cells on this brood frame. Close up the gaps and add a spare frame at one end.


Step 4:

Place a queen excluder on the new brood box, followed by the supers and then the original brood box on top. Remove any queen cells that already exist in the original box (either destroy them or use to make up nuclei as desired). Add a spare frame to close up the gap. Replace the crown board and roof.


Step 5:

After 5 or 6 days inspect the top brood box and remove any queen cells (destroy or use for nuclei accordingly). To leave it any longer may result in the colony swarming. No further queen cells can be developed as there won’t be any available eggs or larvae.


Step 6:

After 25 days from the original manipulation, the top brood box can either be removed as all the brood will have emerged (or the two brood boxes can be placed together to make a double brood box at an earlier stage).


*Care should be taken not to drop the queen. She can be found and held in place using a push-in marking cage before the original brood box is moved to prevent her being dropped on the floor.



The nurse bees will stay mainly with the brood in the top brood box. The flying bees will continue to fly to and fro from the entrance in the bottom brood box. Some of these flying bees will become nurse bees and some of the nurse bees in the top box may relocate downwards to look after new brood there. This method leaves the workers completely free to move around the hive, so they will form their own natural balance.


Following the manipulation of the boxes, the colony will probably develop some emergency queen cells in the top brood box. If these are left, the colony may swarm, losing the old queen and most of the flying bees. Therefore, it is important that the beekeeper returns to remove any queen cells after 5 or 6 days. Timing is critical. After this, there should be no viable larvae from which new queen cells can be raised.


This method is aimed at keeping the colony together and preventing the bees from swarming. Although originally intended for use only once during the season, the bees may show signs of swarming again if they continue to build up. Therefore, many beekeepers repeat the process as often as necessary during the season.


Some beekeepers use this method to raise new queens whilst preventing swarming. When new queen cells appear in the top box, these can be used to re-queen other hives or to make up nucleus colonies. Care should be taken to remove or destroy all the queen cells in the top box as leaving just one to develop may result in the colony swarming.

This method is given as guidance only. After trying one or more key methods of swarm control, the beekeeper should go on to experiment and develop their own variations to suit their own preferences.