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A manipulation method of honey bee colonies

The Demaree method is one of a number of well known beekeeping methods that have been used for a long time. Very often they are modified to suit different conditions, therefore may vary from the original. What Dave Cushman wrote below may vary from other versions, so don't try to mix methods.

At the bottom of this page I have made comment based on my own and other's experience. R.P.

The Demaree method is not just a method of manipulating bees, but is a system that can be used for swarm reduction, queen replacement or producing nuclei. Any or all of these options are available at the same time.

Wedmore was a big proponent of this system, which was first described by George Demaree in an article in the American Bee Journal in 1884. I had long been aware of the ideas, but had not tried them when a friend of mine, Bob Boone, (a fellow bee equipment manufacturer) enthused over all of the possibilities and I resolved to try it for myself.

The method and Wedmore's variations on it have been the basis of my beekeeping up until I no longer had the physical strength to do the lifting involved.

The principle behind the Demaree method is the rearrangement of a colony, on one site, in such a way as to separate the queen and foraging force from the brood and nurse bees. That is about the simplest way of stating it, but the permutations of different ways of doing it are enormous

My way of doing it...

If I found queen cells during a routine inspection I would shift the open brood box to one side and cover it with a cloth.

  1. Locate a spare brood box with foundation or drawn comb (I used to store several in each apiary so that they were always available) I would also have spares in the van. This spare box minus it's centre comb was placed on the original floorboard.
  2. Run through the original box and find the queen. Take her and the frame she was found on and place it in the centre of the new box, removing any queen cells that are on that frame.
  3. Put the queen excluder on this new box and then the supers (add another super if thought prudent at the time). Place an additional queen excluder over the supers.
  4. Returning to the original box, move the combs to one side of the box and fill the empty space at one side with the odd drawn comb that was removed to make the gap. This box now goes on top of the topmost queen excluder.
  5. Fit crownboard and roof and the job is done.

In my experience the bees often build emergency cells in the top box. I would remove these 7-8 days after adding the top box, otherwise the bees may swarm. I would always clip the queen too as this makes management much easier. R.P.

The original Demaree method actually allowed the bees to swarm, which required that they be collected (a great deal of un-necessary work and a risk of losing the bees completely). After some trials it was decided to treat the colonies as if they had swarmed even if they were making no swarm preparations.

This regimental treatment of all colonies was aimed at suppressing swarming. and was totally successful for a period of 14 to 21 days. To further extend the non swarming period, the queen excluders could be removed allowing the original queen full use of the combs. This gave another 14 to 21 days with about 90% chance of swarm suppression.

Requeening a honey production hive.

This is probably the most common usage of the method and to be true to the originators ideas you should do this upon finding queen cells. In practice I used to carry out the manoeuvre on all colonies in an apiary if I found queen cells, that I had not anticipated, in any hive in that apiary.

A young queen can be raised and get mated from the top box by introducing a split board instead of the uppermost queen excluder. She will fly from the top entrance and can replace the queen in the bottom box when she has proved herself.

I have never done this, but I see no reason why a two queen colony can't be created in this way. R.P.

Producing several nucs is quite possible, whilst still producing some honey. The upper box is replaced by several nucs or a brood box that is fitted with divisions inside it..

Originally written by Dave Cushman. Edited to improve clarity by Roger Patterson.

I believe the Demaree principle, whether following the original or a modification of it needs a reasonable amount of knowledge, skill and discipline by the beekeeper. I have added some advantages and disadvantages below in the hope it will help beekeepers be more successful in using it. These have been gained by my own experience and speaking to other beekeepers who have use the Demaree method.

Many things in beekeeping are done as afterthoughts or firefighting. I think Demareeing should be used as a management system, not something you try when you are in panic mode, so planning is useful. As with many other things, you need to understand what is happening and what the bees reaction will be to your actions, otherwise failure, which could be spectacular could be the result.

We must remember that Demareeing was an American idea, so is probably more suited to the more prolific bees used there, than the less prolific bees used in the U.K and Ireland. With prolific bees huge colonies can result.

Some advantages.

Some disadvantages.

Roger Patterson.

Page created 20/10/2001

Page updated 28/12/2022