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International Beekeeper of Mystery
BeeKeeping Supporter
Mar 30, 2011
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Too many - but not nearly enough
Demaree method - slight modification of the original 1894 method which also allows for making increase

Most methods of swarm prevention are a reactive measure – managing the colony and trying to stop them swarming after the bees have decided to go and you have found a queen cell or cells. The Demaree method, though, is a proactive or pre-emptive method of swarm avoidance, namely taking an action before they decide to go, and not ending up with any more hives or colonies (unless you want to).

This method is also a good way of replacing the older darker brood frames, thus avoiding the barbaric practice of shook swarming which seems to be the flavour of the month at the moment, or the hard work of a modified Bailey change.

The method only really works if you do it when the colony is 'thinking about' swarming i.e. plenty of drones, flow started and loads of bees and on eight or more frames of brood (I often do it on seven), it seldom works if they have already made swarm preparations (you have found queen cells) although you will find a few sites on the internet who wrongly advise to Demaree after finding queen cells - the odd play cup starting maybe, but not queen cells, Charged, with just royal jelly or eggs although you may get away with it if there are only one or two in the early stages.

George Demaree’s original plan was to separate the queen from all the brood but to keep everything in the one hive, he did this by moving the queen, before there were any swarm preparations, into an empty brood box with just drawn comb or foundation at the floor of the hive, separated from the supers by a queen excluder, and all the brood in another box ‘in an upper storey’ (his words) right at the top, that method still holds good and although using just foundation with the queen works in a good flow I do like leaving a few frames of drawn comb with the queen so that she doesn’t have to put laying on hold until fresh comb is drawn, I also add an entrance at the top.

This is also a good way to make increase as the young bees in the top brood box, being separated from the queen will make queen cells, not always, and not many but good queen cells as they are not panic driven emergency queen cells but more akin to carefully prepared supersedure cells as, although they are separated from the queen, they can still get some weak queen pheromone so they think the queen is failing but have plenty of time to prepare a replacement.

Find the queen, remove her with the frame of brood she's on or pick her up and put into a new brood box filled with drawn comb and foundation (as much drawn as you can spare) - the queen on her frame in the middle of the comb.

Take the original brood box with the rest of the brood in and put to one side for a moment, put the box with the queen in its place - this now becomes the bottom box.

Put Queen excluder on and then one, preferably two (or more) supers.

The next part is optional but good practice In my opinion, put on another Queen excluder to stop subsequently emerged drones getting trapped in the supers (especially if someone still insists on using the inefficient Porter escape to clear bees down pre extraction) then a shallow eke with 300mm entrance (eke only needs to be 8 to 10 mm high) or a ‘Demaree board’ which I designed for myself - simple to make, a 460mm square (crown board size) piece of 9mm plywood or whatever is at hand, with a 70x100mm square cut out in the middle or to the back of the board opposite the entrance with a piece of plastic or galvanised Queen excluder fixed over it, 8mm rim underneath as per normal then another 10mm rim on top with an entrance gap in (this becomes the 'floor' of the top box) the top entrance facing the same way as the lower one.

Lastly goes the brood box with all the brood in, any gaps being filled with foundation topped with a crown board then roof.

You can carry on adding supers between the two broods if there is a flow on, but I would just add additional supers over the top box (but still keep 2 or three between the broods) the bees will fill the vacated brood frames in the top box if you let them, so it’s handy to have an extractor that can take deep frames.

If you cannot find the queen you can always take each frame of brood out of the brood box, shake off all the bees and put them all in another Brood Box which becomes your top box - rebuilding the hive as per above, enough nurse bees will migrate to the top box through the Queen excluder leaving the queen in the bottom on her frames (at least two) of drawn comb and foundation.

The next part is the swarm control part:

I used to go in to the top box after four or five days no more and take down any Queen Cells they have made and repeat this in a few days again until they no longer have the material to make QC's. Although, to be honest, after using the system for some time I have observed that they seldom draw QC’s from older larvae and nowadays I just check on day 7 or 8.

Carry on regular inspections of the bottom Brood Box - you can ‘roll’ the Demaree by, each inspection, removing frames or two of capped brood from the bottom box and put it in the top box replacing them with frames from the top box where the brood has all emerged, even if they have started putting stores in the top frames, they will quickly empty them once they are in the bottom box to give the queen space to lay. You can keep on doing this until 'swarming fever' has passed but be mindful that the bees may draw queen cells from any young larvae so you need to inspect the top box next inspection.

Making increase

If your plan was to make some nucs up then go into the top box three or four days after the Demarree and take down any sealed QC's (these will be from older larvae so not so good) but as I said, by now I seldom find QC’s drawn from older larvae so don’t find this so important, but as this part is for making increase not swarm control, it may be good to check, or, open bang on day 7 to find an open but ready to seal Queen Cells and select the ones you want to keep, do the split(s) or then go back in after day eight when they are sealed. You can either split the whole box into two or three nucs, take two or three frames out to make one nuc up and carry on with the Demaree or harvest the QC's to put into mini nucs. When you make up the nucs, put in a good few shakes of bees from the brood frames you are not using, or from the other supers.

Things to consider

Demaree’s give you powerful and prolific colonies so expect a good honey yield.

On the flip side with more brood being produced, so will there be an increase of varroa, so be mindful to monitor varroa levels.

George Demaree used to leave the bees fill the brood frames in the top box with honey once the brood had emerged, and even if you keep rolling the Demaree, you will often get to the point when you cannot keep up, so a deep box will become a honey super and at the end of the year you will need an extractor that can handle deep frames (even many smaller radial extractors can be rigged with tangential screens nowadays so can take deeper frames) Once you have extracted you can then sort out the frames, discarding those that are older and darker and saving the newer ones (some may even be freshly drawn and unbrooded) for use next season.

Once you have stopped ‘rolling’ the Demaree and all the drones have emerged, you can remove the top entrance/Demaree board if you wish

Running with two queens

Sometimes (none of us are perfect) you may miss a queen cell and you end up with a new mated queen in the top box. You may even decide to purposely leave them make a new queen up top. This can leave you with an even more powerful honey producing colony.

In both these cases, there is no need to have entrances (lower and upper) facing in different directions. But remember you will need another queen excluder if you have supers above the top colony.

At the end of the year, you then have two choices, either take off the top box which will give you another colony, remembering that most of the flying bees will return to the original location (there is no easy way to shut them all up at the end of the day and moving them three miles away)

Or you can ‘dispose’ of the older queen in the lower box and just run the colony with the one new queen, there is no need for any ‘uniting’ as the bees have always run as one single entity, you will just need to consolidate the two brood boxes.
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