Swarm Control – cannot find the queen

Swarm on Brood BoxThis method should be read as a supplement to the Pagden method of Swarm Control. For details of the Pagden method please click this link Pagden Method. The following method additionally describes how to deal with situations where the queen cannot be found.

The procedure requires duplicate equipment and sufficient space in the apiary to move brood boxes around.

The diagram below shows a typical hive in its original location, in which your colony has produced queen cells and indicated that it intends to swarm.

No Queen Found (1)

Diagram 1 – Hive in original location. (Note – A Double Brood or Brood and a Half should be treated as one chamber.)

The aim of the Pagden method is to create an Artificial Swarm in a brood box on the original site of the colony.

The queen is already in place, i.e. in a brood chamber on the original site, and the frames of  brood and stores from the parent colony must be moved to the new location, but without the queen.

Because developing queens in queen cells can be damaged, always shake the frames as gently as possible, and only brush bees off the frame with the queen cell that you have selected to retain.

Complete the following steps

  • Find the frame which contains the queen cell chosen to be left with the ‘parent colony’ and brush off all the bees into the original brood chamber. Reduce the queen cells to leave only the chosen one and mark the frame. Put this frame in the centre of a new brood box.
  • Shake the other frames in turn clear enough of bees to be sure the queen is not there. Remove queen cells as you go. (If you find the queen, keep her safe and revert to the normal Pagden procedure).
  • Put all these frames in the new brood box taking care not to damage the chosen queen cell.
  • One frame of brood can be left in the old box if that is the preferred way.
  • Put a queen excluder over the original brood chamber which now contains the queen, one frame of brood and all the bees.
  • Put the box of ‘beeless’ frames over the queen excluder and reassemble the hive. Leave for several hours to allow  the colony to rearrange itself. (Two or three hours should be enough).

No Queen Found (2)

Diagram 2 – Separation of the colony.

  • The new brood box can then be moved to a new location in the normal Pagden way, complete with supers.
  • The queen excluder should be moved to underneath the ‘swarm’ brood chamber for a few days to reduce the possibility of absconding or swarming

Make sure the queen is not underneath the queen excluder when it is moved.

No Queen Found (3)

Diagram 3 – New Brood Box relocated to a new location

After seven days it is usual, though not essential, to move the new brood chamber from this location to a new position one or two metres the other side of the ‘swarm’ brood box, and rotated 180° so that its entrance faces in the opposite direction.

Also useful when uniting colonies

This technique can also be used to find and eliminate a queen when uniting colonies. Complete the following steps.

  • Shake the brood frames clear of bees into a new empty box, then place a queen excluder over this box.
  • Put the original brood box on top of the queen excluder and the new  box which now contains the bees.After the initial confusion the majority of the bees in the lower box will migrate back up to their original brood box, leaving the queen behind.

Seperating the Queen

  • If you perform the procedure during the afternoon by evening all will have settled down.

Combing colonies

  • To combine your colonies, all you have to do is gently lift the brood box and bees above the queen excluder, and place it onto the newspaper covering the queenright colony with which you want to combine.
  • The remaining bees and queen in the other box can then be shaken out. Any bees clustered around the queen will find an new home, probably with the uniting colonies, but the queen will be rejected.

If you would like a pdf version of this Reigate Beekeepers Information Note that you can download and print please click here

Leave a Reply