We are often asked how to carry out swarm management and to help we have two videos on our YouTube channel Swarm Management Part 1 and Swarm Management Part 2 these show the Pagden or Artificial Swarm Method which is the one I prefer, especially for new beekeepers as it mirrors what a swarm would do in nature. We will look at other swarm management techniques in later videos and blogs.

If you want to know why bees swarm then please have a look at our blog Why Do Bees Swarm? The big question is, why do we want to carry out swarm management in the first place?

To be clear, you can’t control bees and their swarming, only manage them. Swarming is a natural reaction from a healthy colony that has grown sufficiently large to enable it to split into two and thus (in theory) double the number of colonies in the world. Bees have been doing this for millions of years, so why intervene now?

To carry out swarm management you must separate the old queen and half the bees from the new queen cells and the brood. To do this you can utilise the natural desire of bees to fly back to where the hive was when they did their orientation flights. By moving the existing hive to a new place and putting a new hive where the old one was you can “bleed” off the older flying bees and then move the old queen across to join them. Hey presto! They have swarmed but just can’t remember doing it.

When a bee colony swarms it is very vulnerable. As we get more and more divorced from nature people will often not put up with bees making a home inside their home. They think that if they get within half a mile of a stinging insect they will die!!! Bees in your home are very unlikely to cause any problems, but that’s not the way they see it. As soon as everyone’s back is turned they are in there with the insecticide and that’s the end of the colony. With the lack of trees with cavities and the increasing number of beehives being kept the bees look for a non traditional home, and a human’s house is ideal.

The other reason to perform swarm management is that when it splits, the hive is in a very vulnerable state. If the new queen does not get mated properly then that’s the end of the colony. Swarm management preserves the old queen until you are completely sure everything has gone well. It’s a kind of insurance for the bees.

Swarm management also means that the swarm will not gather where it causes a huge nuisance. There are stories of shops having to close, aircraft unable to take off, people not being able to move their cars and many more incidents that don’t endear beekeeping to the general public. It is our responsibility to ensure our bees don’t cause problems for others.

There you have it then. Swarm management. Good for the bees, good for the environment and good for the beekeeper. A rare situation in life. No lose.

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