Best way to manage the swarming instinct...

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Field Bee
Dec 29, 2009
Reaction score
Near Andover, UK
Hive Type
Number of Hives
From 5 to 2 and hopefully a better year
As a newbie I will be facing my first set of bees with a desire to swarm this year. Last year my girls didn't arrive as a Nuc until May 30th and spent the next month creating 25lbs of honey for me.

If they survive then they will be busy with the rapeseed oil and I will need to manage them until July..ish.

So how do people best recommend I stop their swarming intent. I had a neighbour who just scratched out the queen cells when they appeared but his bees kept swarming as he wasn't all that focussed.

I read somewhere about performing a 'shook swarm' to fool them into thinking that they had swarmed and that they then produced lots of honey and didn't try to abscond. However, reading FINMAN and others on this board I am not sure about this as a valid approach anymore. I would also need a second hive I think and I want to try and avoid getting too much kit. I will be getting a second colony in April anyway and I would need an additional hive to be used for that.

Are there other ways to manage swarming in a WBC hive besides sratching out queen cells and throwing supers on the hive and hoping they stay?

I am not really competent at handling my queen yet and so I don't think I can clip her wings (part of an approach only).

What do you all do?

All the best,
it's by no means a certainty your existing bees will want to swarm, so you could simply check regularly for queen cells and if none appear then no action is necessary, but with a WBC it's quite likely.
why not cancel your order for your 2nd colony and wait for queen cells then carry out an artificial swarm or some variant, thus creating your 2nd colony and satisfying the swarming urge (probably). I presume you are familiar with the artificial swarm technique?
Clipping queens wings and scratching out queen cells will delay swarming but won't stop it.
If they are going to have access to oil seed rape I suggest you plan on them swarming. The generally accepted way in the UK of dealing with a colony intent on swarming is the artifical swarm. For this you will need a second hive or two nuc boxes. You can get away with just a second brood box but you will need a splitter board, which you may have to make yourself but no doubt someone sells them. There are ways of doing the shook swarm without having to find or touch the queen. Briefly, this means putting a box of new foundation on the old floor on the old site then shaking/brushing all the bees into this new box. Then put on a queen excluder and then the old brood box full of the brood and with only one large unsealed queen cell left. Leave for say 4 hours then take the old box away and put it on another floor a few yards away.

I suggest getting the equipment ready, including a full set of frames and foundation well before they are required. I am forever being caught out early in the year - finding queen cells and and not having the kit ready.

Removing queen cells or performing a shook swarm are not reliable ways of preventing swarms. The latter will discourage them, that is all. Removing queen cells in my experience almost never works. It is too easy to miss one and even if you remove them all they can choose older larva for the next batch and one will be sealed over before your next inspection, by which time the bees will have gone.
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I would wait till I saw a good queen cell developing A big ripe one on the base of a frame. Dump all other queen cells.
Then find the original ?marked queen, put her -on the frame with another 5 frames of brood and food ( and 5 foundation frames) into a new hive - a little distance from the original- or at least another direction - then replace gap with new foundation in the old hive to give them work to do and allow the capped queen to develop and - you have 2 hives.
Once they have developed the foundation to the last 2 frames -put super on.

Until that queen emerges - and you should know to 3 days when that is - keep knocking off any new queen cells so she has no competition. If she fails to mate etc- you can always reunite- but usually it works well. When she is due to emerge- just leave well alone for 10 days- no peeking - gives her a chance to fly, return and start laying with minimum risk
Thanks for the idea. I have read something on artificial swarming (on this board I think).

My fiance and I have ordered a nuc from Thornes as last year we got our first colony this way and they have been exceptional in terms of temperament. So really we are just playing safe in our minds...

I want to stop at 2 hives for a couple of years so that I can be sure about the committment I have towards beekeeping.

I guess it would be wise to get my colonies onto deeper brood frames for the WBC's. So I will need to figure out how to tidily accomplish this (without lots of non-frame comb building on the existing WBC brood frames.

All the best,
Hi Sam

Managing bees in the second year is just as much a learning curve as that first year. This is the beginners book that got me underway. A good introduction to beekeeping and it covers basic swarm control including the standard artificial swarm:

I'm with those who say that what you need is not a second colony but a second empty hive.

all the best

As a newbie I will be facing my first set of bees with a desire to swarm this year. Last year my girls didn't arrive as a Nuc until May 30th and spent the next month creating 25lbs of honey for me.

All the best,

How old is you Queen in the May 2009 Nuc? ,as both your old hive and April nuc will have problabley 2nd year queens by 2010, you dont want them both becoming Drone laying queen at the same time and need to deinitely change the queen in the May 2009 Nuc if she is in 3rd year in 2010

i try always to have 50% 1st year Queens

i would split the old hive at first sign of queen cells into a 14x12 with new eggs/brood and leave the old brood box with old queen and recombine into 14x12 after the new queen is laying (after killing old queen)
If you have your bees in nationals, the you could use a Snelgrove board - I have used them in the past to great success but you need to make time to do the necessary entrance opening/closing and works best for bees at the bottom of the garden.

That way you still get honey and only need one extra brood chamber with frames and a snelgrove board.


the big problem with cutting out queen cells when the bees are preparing to swarm , is that they will usually continue to build cells and sometimes raise a scrub or useless queen much quicker than you would expect. If they then swarm when you are not looking, you are left with a totally useless queen.

I had a lot of problems with requeening my hives this year, I took out a nuc (and the original queen) from each hive that was preparing to swarm and left a good queen cell. When it hatched soemthing went wrong I think were lost on their mating flights (the weather was very poor when this was happening. Its difficult to be sure. I had a very poor harvest as a result, as I lost many valuable weeks of egg laying and the hives were all weak.

Cstroud - that's why I leave one strong looking cell to develop - but I harvest all the other queen cells that look good, develop them in an incubator and store in Apideas with a cupful of bees, so I always have spare - and can choose a better one if need be.
I don't allow scrubs to be capped (well I try not to) so hopefully the newly hatched queen will stop the swarming instinct with her fresh pheromones.

But have to admit - these colonies are all within 100 yds of my door so can keep a close eye on worrying hive, - have to as neighbours all around!
:cheers2:Hi Heather,
I could do with some apidea's they would be very useful.

Lets hope for less problematic swarming in 2010- but I would'nt count on it.

Rose Cottage I am about to say some thing which is by far the most outragous thing you will ever hear and in fact i exspect the bbka police to be burning the shed as i type, as for the other members of this forum i will bring my own rope to the linching, are we ready,

You can breed swarming out of bee's, almost to the point that if done carefully you dont have to be to worried about it!!
Now that I have dug my hole and sent out for a jcb , I shall continue!!!!

It all depends on your type of bee and its history most people will have a carni type based bee in which case stop reading and go and get the pitch forks. As for everyone else, here goes the great plan, most of this is based on brother Adam works so I know that will upset alot of people here as he is loved and hated by many,

His method ideas was this, by changing the queen before the swarming instinct became an issue, ment that the bees would simple continue with life as it is without all the hassel of swarming, Ie the first two or evan three years of the quuens life, so lets go further with that and simply say. lets change the queen ever 24 to 30 months, in that case there should be no issues with swarms, so now that the hole is evan deeper. lets keep going as i can here the angry mob comming!!

so now we are changing the queen ever other year the bees are happily going about there bussiness there comes another idea and this is the heretic one , If done right a swarmming instinct in a hive can be breed out in less than , are you ready, aim ,10 years FIRE

Where it goes wrong for many many people, like all the ones sharpening pitch forks right now is this, never ever use a hive that has started the swarming instinct build up as a split or in any way as a breeding hive as they are about the very worst thing you could could do as they are swarmtist swarmy things in swarmy land and you dont want swarmy bees , Confused?? try this

most peole only every think about about swarm control in april onwards some evan in may. My swarm control was started last year when I changed my quuens to new ones, it was done in late september after the honey flow and when every thing was getting pulled about with lots of inspections, honey harvests etc etc, the two queens then had four months to settle in and to start being incharge , each queen was about 5 months old and were laying eggs the old queens were swaped with the new ones in the nucs are over wintering and both will be squished in may with the new queens on line so as you can see i have taken loads of drugs and evan more wacky backy and drained a brewery of beer, but have i spoken some thing of the truth, just read the millon replys below and see for your self,

lots of love the late hedgerow pete
Pete - your ideas appear sound. I look forward to the garden party in 5 years when you have your first million from the millions of queens you will have sent around the world that don't swarm.

oh, and I predict that by year 10 bees will be on a decline as they rely too much on humans to breed queens and they start to die out.

Tounge firmly in cheek


HP, if you can breed out a few million years of evolution in 10 years you will win a Nobel Prize. Lovely idea, the swarm-free bee, but nature has a way of surviving and swarming is how bees survive.

Have a look under those gooseberry cuttings I sent you, more chance of finding fairies there than bees which don't swarm.

But I wish you luck - I'll stick to the Lottery to make my milllions.

PS. The above is a lie, I don't do the lottery anymore - I just give the odd spare coin to charity directly via collecting boxes rather than through the local newsagent or garage.

PPS: Re-queening, which I think is what you are describing, is a very established way of avoiding swarming - it is what a lot of commercial beefarmers do.
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I have timber I can bring to the pyre!

Pete what you describe is swarm control by requeening.
You will need around 40 million years to stop the impulse.

All this talk about non swarmy bees is utter tosh,yes the carni will swarm more than say a buckfast but that maybe because they build up faster so have less room sooner and will swarm,I dont think its anything to do with a carni queen emitting less pheromone than other types.

In my opinion,less tendency to swarm=Non Carniolian type bees.

Hedgerow you are going to get slaughtered in this thread,you are a brave man..
> you can see i have taken loads of drugs and evan more wacky backy and drained a brewery of beer.

You said it Pete, anything else you need to own up to.
oh, and I predict that by year 10 bees will be on a decline as they rely too much on humans to breed queens and they start to die out.

Exactly, it does highlight an arrogance (as genuine as your are Pete, hug) that we can do these things with such ease, same applies to many other traits such as hygiene behaviours, honey production, etc etc

How many people and for how many years have been trying to breed the holy grail of honey bee....

Personally I accept the swarm urge or 'tendency' and manage it the best I can, either increase or split & unite later - the end.

Dear Brother Pete of Hedgerow Abbey,
good luck to you. You will never succeed in breeding a non-swarming bee. Your predecessor at that other abbey down in Devon never managed it and I don't believe he ever thought he could 100%. But aim high and if you get 50% of the way there you'll be doing well.
Brother Chris
thank you angry mob for this wonderfull pitch fork collection,

The word arrogance , was used,
this is one of the few words that does bother me,
not to the point of a hissy fit but, please rember all the information that i write down is what i am doing not what i have just thought of,

whether you wish to call it requeening or not my swarm isuues / problems are not a concern to me yes i do have swarms but so few it makes no odds at all, the amount of swarms that i have lost , i will not publish because the A word would get used a millon times,

as for the first part of the posting about me not using swarmy stock to breed from has everyone completly missed the point, why would you breed from bad stock, no other animal breeder does, This is the most important part of the whole thread and no one has commented on it, to busy with those matches i see

just incase, if anyone else want to try and light this pyre cause this snow is putting it out

Can i just point out at another completly differant level on a completly differant world apart, I am happy that this thread is suddenly getting as many hits as my face but if anyone wishes to quiery or to examine any part of the bee keeping proccess i use please just ask there is always room for one more in the shed. There are many people on this forum that i have upset and noses have been put out of place, but this is manly down to me being very iggnorant of others and there ways and very more so of being so opiniated of my ways of working to all that read this and whether or not i have upset you sorry but i will never change

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