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Taranov Swarming

This method produces a quantity of bees with the old queen which mimics a swarm (and can be treated as such).

It is intended to have a higher proportion of 'young' or 'nurse bees' than can be achieved by just shaking.

The Taranov Board is named after its inventor, G. F. Taranov, a Russian beekeeper. This text is partly from an article, published by him in the Russian magazine "Pchelovdstvo" in 1947... Entitled "The artificial separation of the swarming bees from the parent colony".

Taranov found the stages leading to swarming were:-

  1. Excess of nurse bees (idle bees which hang together in free spaces).
  2. Active swarming bees.
  3. Reduction in egg laying.
  4. This all leads to an accumulation of swarming bees.
  5. Issue of swarm.

The resulting 'swarm' bees may be from one to twenty one days old, but physiologically they are mainly young bees which have not fed brood nor secreted wax.

Taranov devised a special hiving board. The standard version of this uses two sheets of thin ply or even hardboard (masonite) forming a ramp with the mouth propped open by struts.

Basic Taranov Board

A rough, fibrous length of wood about 25 mm square is fixed under the edge of the top board about 100 mm from the front of the mouth. This forms a focus for the clustering bees. (Some use a strip of carpet, folded and stapled so that it forms a ridge.) (Although I have never used this system, I believe the board as drawn is too complicated. I think that just a sheet of plywood with a wooden batten, perhaps with a couple of legs, with rubber or woven polyproylene to form hinges is adequate. A couple of bricks could replace the legs. R.P.)

The board is placed with the upper lip of the slope 100 mm away from the front edge of the alighting board or entrance of the original hive and at the same height. A cloth is placed on the ground, covering the lower portion of the board, in the same way as if you were hiving a swarm.

All the combs of bees and the queen are shaken on to the lower end of the board... Some bees will fall on the cloth. Successive combs are shaken gradually further and further from the board so that there is an even thickness of bees on the cloth. The bees walk up the board and on reaching its top edge, the 'swarm' bees go into the dark region under the board and cluster, accompanied by the queen. The old 'non-swarming' bees will fly across the 100 mm gap and enter the hive.

Taranov Board, side view

It should go without saying that a comb with one or two selected queen cell(s) is left to provide a new queen and this comb must not be shaken or jarred. The bees should be carefully removed by brushing with a bee brush or goose feather. The split between old and young bees will still occur as the old ones will fly straight back to the entrance and the young ones will fall on the cloth and walk with the others.

A Taranov swarm, just like a natural swarm, will be in good condition to draw foundation if is fed syrup or there is a good nectar flow.

The original Taranov method called for the board and swarm to be suspended by rope, in the shade, for hiving in the evening. I have never done this myself, I merely put the swarm in a fresh brood box with drawn comb and perhaps one from the original colony with a little open brood on it. Providing that the swarm is not hived too close to the original stand it can be kept in the same apiary. If it is too close, many of the old bees will rejoin their queen which leaves the queenless part somewhat short of resources and defeats our original objective.

The time of day when you perform this operation is not critical, but I like to do this in late afternoon, so that there is less time before dark... I want the Taranov swarm to 'stay put' rather than abscond.

I sometimes use this method to obtain young bees to stock mating nucs. However I prefer the Marburg Swarm Box as it saves finding the old queen in amongst the young bees.

Some consider this method an easy way to artificially swarm a stock that has queen cells, but I prefer the conventional method of Artificial Swarming.

I have never used the Taranov system or seen it performed, although Dave Cushman obviouly used it, even though he didn't seem to like it much. I looked at several videos online (26/12/2022) to see if others used the method or had devised successful variations. I found several videos, but I'm afraid most I saw were disappointing, showing mainly inexperienced demonstrators, several admitting it was their first attempt. I saw a few things that are worth mentioning, that might help users.

One did the manipulation on the middle colony of three that were close together, so many of the flying bees went into the other two colonies! With the board in front of the hive and the operator moving about, bees will become disorientated. If they find another hive entrance close, I think they will rest there and fan to call the flying bees down.

One didn't work out that with only two queen cells they were probably supersedure, not swarm cells. Supersedure cells during the summer is one of the queen problems I have been trying to highlight since the turn of the century.

A couple of colonies were clearly too weak to perform the technique on, as they were nowhere near strong enough to swarm anyway.

In more than one video, there a lot of watchers standing in front of the hive entrance. This will prevent bees from finding their own home.

Bees were dumped on the ground and could be easily trodden on, including the queen.

I mention these to point out that if you are thinking of using this method the colony and conditions need to be good. My search online suggests the method isn't much used by experienced beekeepers and what little there is was probably induced by this page, as the wording and points made were similar. Having said that, I believe that it could be used for manipulations where young bees are needed. R.P.

Dave Cushman.

Page created Autumn 2000

Page updated 27/12/2022

Written... Autumn 2000, Revised... 01 August 2002, Upgraded... 13 January 2006, Addition... 15 January 2006,
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