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Uses for Swarms

You can do a lot with a swarm

Modern beekeepers aren't aware of some of the tricks that the older beekeepers used to use with swarms. Below I give a few that I regularly use:-

Putting two or more swarms together.

Two or more swarms can be chucked in together before they are hived. This could be because:-

I have a look at the worker bees in the individual swarms before deciding what to do. If they all look promising, then I will hive them individually, or use the queen(s) to requeen a poor colony. If one looks promising, then I will retain that queen and kill the other(s). If none of them look good, I will just let the queens fight it out and requeen ASAP.

The swarms can be chucked into the same skep or box and banged down on the ground heavily a time or two, or they can be chucked onto the sloping board, one on top of the other. The bees will be so confused they shouldn't fight.

Add to a colony with a drone laying queen.

Remove the drone laying queen. If you leave her there she may win the fight with her incoming rival. Leave the colony for a couple of hours until it shows the usual signs of queenlessness, then put a board up in front of the hive and chuck the swarm on the board as close to the entrance as you can. The incoming bees will overwhelm the resident colony.

Add to a colony with a laying worker (or workers).

There is no resident queen to fight, so you could do as above and chuck the swarm down close to the entrance. An alternative I have done is to put a long board in front of the hive. Chuck the swarm on the bottom, then shake the bees off the combs onto the swarm as it moves up the board.

Starting Queen Cells.

A swarm, if it has had the queen removed, is excellent for starting queen cells in a swarm box, where it is used to start the queen cells, then after about 24 hours it can have the queen put back if she is any good, otherwise introduce another queen in a cage.

Producing sections.

I know sections aren't produced much now, but some of the beekeepers in the past used to hive a strong swarm on a full super of honey (on worker comb!), then put a rack of section on top. The bees were forced to move the honey in the super, so drew out the sections and filled them.

I'm sure there are many more ways of using swarms than I mention here. If you have come across any then please Email me.

Roger Patterson.