Demaree swarm control

I’ve covered three swarm control methods in previous posts. These are the classic Pagden artificial swarm, the vertical split that is directly comparable but requires less equipment and more lifting, and the nucleus method.

As described on this site, if successful, all achieve the same two things:

  • They prevent a swarm being lost. Don’t underestimate how important this is in terms of not irritating your neighbours, in helping your honey production and in giving you a quiet sense of satisfaction 🙂
  • They result in the generation of a second colony headed by a newly mated queen.

This doubling in colony number, or – more generally – the managed reproduction of colony numbers, is termed making increase.

Managed reproduction

Making increase is of fundamental importance in beekeeping.

Without deliberately splitting colonies, unless you buy in nucs every year (kerrching!), collect swarms or steal hives 1 your colony numbers would never increase.

Making increase is therefore critical if you want more colonies. However, it’s just as important (and a darn sight less expensive than buying nucs) if you want to make up any overwintering colony losses, thereby keeping the same number of colonies overall 2.

Not making increase

Once you’ve got bees, with good management, you can always have bees. However, at some point you reach that sweet spot where you have enough bees and don’t want more colonies.

The Goldilocks Principle is the concept of having just the right amount. Not so few colonies that a really harsh winter causes problems, and not so many that you cannot enjoy your beekeeping at the peak of the season.

When you reach that point you no longer need to make increase, you just want to keep the same number of colonies.

Which means that the swarm control methods that essentially reproduce the colony may not be ideal.

Of course, you can unite colonies having removed the unwanted queen from one of them, but this is additional work. Not a huge amount of work admittedly, but work nevertheless 3.

This is where the Demaree method of swarm control comes in useful. As practised, Demaree swarm control prevents the loss of the swarm without increasing colony numbers.

It has the additional significant advantages of keeping the entire foraging force of the colony together (even better for honey production than not losing a swarm) and needing no specialised equipment.

Demaree swarm control – in principle

George Demaree

George Demaree

The principle of the method is very straightforward.

When queen cells are found during an inspection you conduct a form of a vertical split, separating the original queen and flying bees from the nurse bees and sealed brood. You place the latter above a queen excluder.

A few days later you return and remove any new queen cells from the top box, so preventing swarming. Finally you leave all the brood to emerge from the top box.

Demaree swarm control – in practice

A cartoon diagram of the process is shown below. The only additional equipment required is a brood box with 11 frames of drawn comb or foundation and a queen excluder.

That’s it.

Demaree swarm control

Demaree swarm control

Here’s a bit more detail:

  1. If you find queen cells during an inspection gently remove the brood box and place it on an upturned roof off to one side 4.
  2. Place the new brood box on the original floor. Add 9 frames of drawn comb or foundation, leaving a gap in the middle of the box.
  3. Using minimal smoke, go through the original box and find the queen.
  4. Place the frame with the queen in the middle of the new brood box on the original floor. This frame must contain no queen cells.
  5. Push the frames in the new brood box together and add in the eleventh frame.
  6. Add a queen excluder.
  7. Add the supers above the queen excluder. If there were no supers on the original hive then it’s worth adding a couple of supers now. It will provide better separation of the new and old brood boxes and it will encourage the bees to store nectar in supers rather than the top brood box.
  8. Add a second queen excluder.
  9. Place the original brood box on top of the queen excluder.
  10. Go through the upper brood box and remove every queen cell. Shake the bees off the frames to do this. Push the frames together and add one additional frame. Add the crownboard and roof.

Leave the colony for one week. At the next inspection you should only need to check the top brood box (i.e. the original one).

  1. Carefully inspect every frame and remove every queen cell. Again, you should shake the bees off the frames to do this. If you miss any queen cells there’s a good chance the colony will swarm.
  2. Close up the hive and leave the brood in the top box to emerge.
  3. About 25 days after conducting the first inspection (1 above, where you first found QC’s) you can remove the upper brood box from which all brood will have now emerged.

Explanatory notes

If you have a reasonable understanding of the development cycle of queen and worker bees you will understand how the Demaree Method simultaneously prevents swarming and keeps the entire colony together.

Honey bee development

Honey bee development

  • By splitting the colony you separate the queen and the flying bees from the nurse bees and the brood. The queen in the new (now bottom) box has ample space to lay, particularly if you provide her with some drawn comb to use.
  • The bottom box will now be less crowded and the swarming urge will therefore be much reduced.
  • You destroy all of the queen cells in the original (now top) box when you rearrange the hive. This is to stop any new queens emerging in this box in the following week.
  • However, this top box still contains eggs and young larvae. Since it is now located a long way from the queenright box the level of queen pheromone is very low. Consequently, in the week following the hive rearrangement, the bees will create new emergency queen cells in the top box.
  • When you return a week later all the eggs in the top box will have hatched and the youngest larvae left will be about four days old i.e. too old to be reared as new queens. Therefore, when you destroy all the new queen cells in the top box, you prevent the colony swarming.
  • You can remove the top brood box as soon as all the brood has emerged i.e. 25 days after first rearranging the hive 5.

Demaree pros and cons


  • An effective method of swarm control
  • Relatively simple procedure to implement and understand
  • Only requires a single brood box, frames and a queen excluder
  • Generates big, strong colonies and keeps the entire foraging force together
  • Modifications of the process can be used for queen rearing 6


  • Necessary to find the queen
  • Critical to remove all queen cells at the start and after one week
  • Generates tall stacked boxes, so some heavy lifting may be involved
  • Drones in the top box get trapped by the queen excluder 7
  • In a strong flow the bees can backfill the top box with nectar. Add sufficient supers when you first rearrange the hive
Framed wire QE ...

Framed wire QE …

Historical notes

George Whitfield Demaree (1832–1915) was a lawyer in Kentucky, USA, and a pioneer in swarm control methods. His eponymous method was published in the American Bee Journal in 1892. The original method was subtly different from that described above:

Demaree method

Demaree method

In his description he emphasises the need to keep the colony together to maximise honey production.

I suspect Demaree used a single sized box (as broods and supers) as he describes placing brood frames above the queen excluder in the centre of the super flanked by empty frames. As described, he doesn’t mention returning after one week to destroy queen cells above the queen excluder. Don’t forget to do this!

I particularly like Demaree’s comment that any swarm prevention method that “require a divided condition of the colony, using two or more hives, is not worthy of a thought”.



  1. Don’t do this at home, or anywhere else for that matter.
  2. Remember that it’s probably less trouble to improve your disease management and winter colony preparation to reduce losses, rather than losing colonies and then making increase the following year.
  3. Usually you’ll keep the younger queen if she performs well. Don’t forget that swarm control methods that make increase have the additional benefit of enabling requeening, so reducing future swarming.
  4. I’m assuming that the queen cells are unsealed. If there are sealed queen cells in the box it’s likely that the colony has swarmed, in which case it’s too late to use the Demaree swarm control method.
  5. 25 days because that’s one day more than the development time for a drone.
  6. These are outside the scope of this brief account and will be dealt with sometime in the future.
  7. This is certainly distressing for the drones (and probably for the beekeeper). I usually try and release them every few days by lifting the lid off for a couple of minutes.

68 thoughts on “Demaree swarm control

  1. Karl Lawless

    Hi David. Thanks for that very clear description. I will now preposition the correct equipment at my stronger hives and try not to be taken by surprise like every other year !! Can you say why the second excluder is needed (point 8) ?

    1. David Post author

      Hi Karl
      I suspect that this is a hangover from the early description of the process by Demaree. In his description he interspersed the original brood frames with those in the supers. There would therefore be just a single QE between the new brood box containing the queen and the emerging brood and new queen cells. If there is drone brood in the upper brood box upon rearranging the hive the QE stops the drones getting into the supers. This isn’t a major issue, but when you finally take the upper brood box away it means the supers remain free of trapped drones.

    1. David Post author

      Hi Calum
      Yes, that’s one of the problems with the Demaree. No brood break or opportunity for miticide treatment if needed. Usually this isn’t a problem here as mite numbers are pretty low until much later in the season. In contrast, the swarm control methods that involve splits should result in brood breaks. Even without chemical intervention these help restrict Varroa levels.

  2. chris

    Can you do this at any time in the season or is this best seen as a pre-emptive strike against swarming ?

    I did this on two hives this season for the first time .. and think I like it as its easy for newbies that can’t find the queen (cheat and shake all the bees into the bottom box)

    1. David Post author

      Hi Chris

      You should only really need to do this before or during the swarming season. There’s little point in doing it at other times. Some people do it more than once on a single colony … a sort of rolling Demaree, keeping the bees together and the foraging force strong, but letting the queen always have ample space to lay.


  3. James

    Hi David,

    I am half way through a demaree swarm control.
    The bees are replacing the brood cells with stores. How can I get the bees to take these stores back down into the hive after the 25 day process? Seems a lot of stores/hard work by the bees for these stores to go to waste.

    Also, wanted to say thank you for your shared writings. They are very helpful.

    Best wishes,

    1. David Post author

      Hi James
      You could always extract them if your extractor takes brood frames. Alternatively, I usually ‘bruise’ the cappings and place the brood box at the bottom of the stack. The bees should then move it up. I usually add a couple of supers between the upper and lower brood boxes during a Demaree in the hope that they fill these in preference.
      They do … sometimes 😉

      1. James

        Hi David,

        Thank you. I’ll try the bruising and see if they move it up.

        Best wishes,


      2. Sian

        Hi, when you do this would you put a QE on top of bottom brood box when you are trying to get bees to move stored nectar up?

        1. David Post author

          Hi Sian

          I always use QE’s to separate the queen in the brood box from the supers. If I want stores moved up (and it’s capped) I bruise the cappings with my hive tool and they usually get on with the job.


          1. Sian

            Thanks. This is the first time I have done this manipulation. Today I took top brood box off (all bees now emerged) I exchanged a few undrawn frames in bottom brood box with nectar filled brood frames. Hopefully bees will take nectar up into supers leaving drawn foundation for Queen to lay in.

            Thank you for your blog, I find it both useful and interesting. I have learned so much from it.

  4. Sam

    Hi David, I have used this method this year with some success (a few hives continued to make queen cells in the bottom box and a couple still swarmed). I also used it to grow a new queen in the top box to eventually replace older queens in the bottom box. At what point would you kill the old queen and when you do is it ok just to move the new queen down into the bottom box (or run as double brood for a time) or are the bees in the bottom box likely to kill her?

    1. David Post author

      Hi Sam

      Is the queen in the top box mated? If so, how? In a Demaree there should be a couple of queen excluders between her and the entrance.

      With a Demaree the bees won’t fight as the workers already have free access throughout the hive. If I do splits (with a solid board in between) and provide an upper entrance which the new queen flies from and mates I do a standard newspaper unite after I’m sure the new queen in a good ‘un. I bump off the old queen at the same time, before uniting.


  5. Sam

    Hi again, yes she is mated & laying well. I had put an eke with a hole in between the top queen excluder and brood box so she could get out and mate.
    So I could now kill off the old queen and combine the two brood boxes on the bottom with new queen in it (or run as double brood if there’s too much brood to combine) without fear of them killing her?
    Also,will the bees that are accessing the hive via the hole in the eke find their way down to the normal entrance once I have done this?

    1. David Post author

      Hi Sam
      Should be OK to just take out the old queen. The bees in the top box will reorientate to the new entrance over a few days. It always causes some confusion, but they manage in the end.

  6. Sam

    Great 👍
    Excellent article by the way and so useful to be able to ask follow up questions.

    1. David Post author

      I can’t guarantee answers … it depends upon workload and where I am in the country … or if I’m doing something else … which today, I am 😉

      Loch Sunart


  7. Eric

    If you want to create a nuc whether to sell or create a new hive, would you not just use the nucleus method rather than Demaree method to achieve both swarm prevention and increase?

    I like both methods but not sure which one I should use.

    1. David Post author

      Hello Eric

      The great thing about beekeeping is that you can achieve the same endpoint in a variety of different ways. A Demaree is largely preventative. The bees will probably make QC’s in the top box and this can then be split amongst one or several nucs. However, if this is the goal it might be even better to use either a vertical split or Cloake board. Both of these have the advantage of concentrating large numbers of nurse bees with the developing queen cells, so maximising the changes that they will be top quality.

      Finally, in the nucleus method of swarm control I discuss it’s the queen that’s removed, leaving the original hive to make a new queen. The nuc you end up with has the old queen … not what you probably want to sell!


      1. Eric

        “Finally, in the nucleus method of swarm control I discuss it’s the queen that’s removed, leaving the original hive to make a new queen. The nuc you end up with has the old queen … not what you probably want to sell!”

        Thank you for your reply. I was wondering about that :-).

        I will read your suggestions. I am based in melbourne, australia and working with a 8 frame full depth brood box, queen excluder then ideal super (this stays for overwintering) , then flow super. Looking to start a second hive without buying a new nuc. So looking at different methods that hopefully allows me to do this but not affect the honey production too much if possible. Then once i have 2 hives established (that is the max I can have in my backyard), then will look to create a couple of nucs to sell each season or just maintain existing.

        I think for me being new beekeeper, is information overload 🙂 cos everything is so interesting to read

        1. David Post author

          Hi Eric

          You have the advantage of being able to read about things a few months before you need to implement them … or the disadvantage of reading about them six months too late 😉

          I’m not familiar with the climate in Melbourne (did I mention I do invited talks?!) but it’s worth remembering that the weather has a very significant influence on our bees. Here on the East coast of Scotland the season is at least a month shorter than it is 300 miles South where I started my beekeeping.

          Good luck with your plans … it’s so much more rewarding rearing your own stock rather than buying it in.


          1. Eric

            Thank you David. Last question, how would you tackle the vertical split once completed with the new colony whether keeping or to be sold as a Nuc can’t be located the required distance away? In my case with a suburban backyard, it will be located about a metre away.

          2. David Post author

            Hi Eric

            After the split the two colonies will be orientated to entrances on opposite ‘faces’ of the hive. I’d probably move the top colony off to one side, initially on top of an empty brood box. Then, once they’d coped with that, I’d remove the brood box, then – in stages – I’d turn the hive around (assuming that’s what you want). There are other ways of achieving the same thing. Don’t rush things and it’ll be fine.


  8. Elaine Robinson

    Hi David, love your website; so clear and just the right amount of detail. I’m in my 3rd year of beekeeping and keen to try new methods. I plan to try the Demaree method for swarm control, prior to finding swarm cells, but around the time I expect to find them. Just a little concerned about drones getting trapped in the queen excluder, even though I would help release them during weekly inspection of the top box. What are the merits & downsides of adding a second entrance for the top box, to allow the drones to escape? Appreciate your thoughts. Elaine

    1. David Post author

      Hi Elaine

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to get to this. Lockdown (and some fabulous weather in Scotland) has distracted me. I periodically lift the roof/crownboard to let the drones out. I’ve not used an upper entrance on a Demaree’d hive, but I have during a Bailey comb change (though the drones tend to be below in that case). During a Bailey the bees learn quickly to use the upper entrance and it’s not been a problem. I suspect it should be fine during a Demaree. There may be a bit of confusion when you finally rearrange the hive … choose a nice warm day and the bees will find the new ‘correct’ entrance soon enough.


  9. Elaine Robinson

    Thanks David, makes sense re lifting the crownboard. I’m doing my first Bailey comb exchange of the season right now and you’re right they adjusted quite quickly to the new entrance & your tip of starting it early in the day to give them time to adjust was spot on.
    Think your website is fabulous and learning lots from it. Thank you!
    Best wishes Elaine

  10. David

    I have been looking to do a preemptive swarm control and keep bees together so chose the Demaree so thank you for this information. I missed the need for 2 QE when I added the second brood box, so now have new brood box with empty comb and the queen, QE, 2 supers and old brood. I see the 2 QE is the standard instruction across every page on it I find, including the legendary Dave Cushman.

    But I don’t see the need to have the second QE. Is correct?


    1. David Post author

      Hello David

      This has been discussed on Bee-L recently. It’s not entirely necessary. It keeps drones out of the supers but is primarily to leave the option of adding an upper entrance and getting a two-queen hive.


  11. mike

    Hi, I want to do a demaree but currently needing only one super, which is partly filled. Can I add a second super of just empty drawn comb to achieve the demaree?

  12. Sam

    Hi again David,
    Having used the demaree method with a good deal of success, thanks greatly to this article and your follow up answers to my queries I was intrigued by the article by Richard Ball in April’s BBKA News. He suggests that it is better to put the queen in the top box if you only have foundation to fill up the box with. When I ran out of drawn comb this year I gave it a try on two hives and a friend did the same on his demaree.
    In all three hives the bees have continued to make queen cells in the top brood box each week following the manipulation. The first one I set up has done it for the second week in a row following the split so I am guessing is still in swarm mode? The hives cant make any more cells in the bottom boxes now they are out of eggs/young lavae and the queen won’t be able to get out of the hive through the queen excluders so they can’t actually swarm (can they!?!)
    Apart from sticking to the original form of demaree from now on can you suggest what you would do with these colonies if they keep producing queen cells – I don’t like the idea of carrying on destroying them as surely this isn’t good practice.

    1. David Post author

      Hello Sam

      Whatever was recommended in the BBKA news was clearly not a Demaree! I’m surprised they are rearing QC’s where the Q is and didn’t below. Still, bees don’t always follow the rules.

      If they’re committed to swarming (and it sounds as though they are) I’d split the Q out in a nuc, remove the QE and let them get on with requeening. Once they’ve decided that’s what they’re going to do there is sometimes no stopping them.

      Alternatively, assuming the boxes are not separated by supers, why not shift a frame with a good QC below the QE and continue to knock those in the top box down? If I was going to do this I’d put two supers between the two brood boxes, remembering a QE to separate the queenright top box from the supers underneath.


      1. Sam

        Thanks David for your prompt reply.
        In all three hives the brood boxes were separated by two supers and they did all make queen cells in the bottom (queenless) box as expected which we took down as one would with a normally configured demaree.
        The main reason I wanted to try this configuration was because my demarees always end up with top brood boxes backfilled with honey and they get really heavy before all the brood is gone. Mr Ball suggests that with the queenless box on the bottom they won’t back fill it. What I have found is that they have still been filling the bottom (and in fact the top!) brood boxes with honey despite adding my more supers.
        In fairness, we have a heck of a flow of rape this year. I wonder if they weren’t happy having their stores below the queen/brood and if we had put an extra super above the top box (as well as two supers between the brood boxes) they might not have stayed in swarming mode?
        In any case, as is often said, the bees don’t read the books – and obviously not articles in the BBKA News!!!

        1. David Post author

          Hi Sam

          In fairness, I also haven’t read the BBKA News 😉 We have The Scottish Beekeeper which has little need to carry articles on huge nectar flows and how to avoid heavy lifting.

          Time to get a small set of stepladders I think for those towering hives 🙂


          1. Sam

            Oh dear, I guess I’m complaining about a problem a lot of beekeepers would probably not mind having!☺☺☺
            The rape is both a curse and a blessing, depending on how much free time I have to deal with it!

  13. Elaine Robinson

    Hi David, like Sam I’ve tried Demaree on a few hives now this season & it’s worked well. One observation & one question please.
    I’ve tried putting a super(s) between the 2 brood boxes and on another hive I’ve kept the 2 brood boxes together (with Q/E between) with supers on top. I’ve observed some colonies like to put the honey furthest away whilst others prefer to put honey close, hence trying the different super arrangements. I’d be interested in any thoughts you have on this.

    My question: I performed a Demaree of sorts in preparation for using a colony as a wax builder for spare drawn comb, with the goal of then using it as a cell builder for grafting. I ended up with a triple brood (had to do some varroa control for a few weeks) with a queen excluder between the first and second box. Around week 4, I spotted a couple of cells in the middle box and one cell in the top box (I’m sure they must have moved eggs up!) but none in the bottom box with the queen. I shook the bees off the combs to double check and then took the cells down. Thinking these were emergency / supercedure rather than swarm cells, I was surprised to find the hive had swarmed 6 days later with 2 sealed cells in the bottom box. So they must have built swarm cells on 1-2 day old larvae rather than from scratch, in the box with the queen. Now unsure how to interpret whether a hive is in swarming mode, or just building emergency / supercedure cells in a box above the one the queen is in, in a Demaree. Any advice please?
    Many thanks, Elaine

    1. David Post author

      Hello Elaine

      Re. you comment on placement of the supers. I’ve never set a Demaree up with them on top. I want to ‘dilute’ the queen pheromone and induce them to generate QC’s so that I can clear them a week later. It’s not unusual if there’s a good nectar flow for them to backfill the top box as the brood emerges.

      Re. your question … your three-box stack probably felt (to the bees) like a very large strong hive and was clearly wanting to swarm. Perhaps they needed more separation between the queenright box and all of the remaining brood? With the Demaree’s I do the queen starts on a single frame in the bottom box and the majority of the bees are probably tending the brood at the top of the stack. She should feel relatively uncrowded, have ample space to lay etc.

      Alternatively (and this is usually the case if it was one of my hives), are you certain you didn’t miss a cell in the bottom box when you inspected?

      Sorry I can’t be more help. I think that sometimes the bees just do whatever the heck they want irrespective of what we try!


    2. Janet Wilson

      David and Elaine, I am often called out to help new beekeepers deal with unexpected swarms, and the exclamation often is: I saw supercedure cells so did not expect them to swarm!

      I am skeptical (especially in spring) that cells on the face of the comb as opposed to the bottom of the comb indicate a peaceful supercedure is in progress. It is far safer to assume what is usually the case, that an uncapped queen cell indicates an imminent swarm. You risk nothing by applying your preferred method of swarm control/management, as you can recombine or juggled brood frames post management to conserve foragers to hives meant to be honey hives.

      1. David Post author

        Hi Janet

        I agree. Cell location (or number) is a poor guide to the condition under which the new queen is being raised. I almost always intervene in colonies with QC’s before late July. After that I tend to reduce my inspections anyway and often find a supersedure queen in the colony the following spring.

        In some years queen mating is problematic and it’s not unusual for new queens to underperform for a few weeks before the colony decides “enough is enough” and produce a supersedure queen to head the colony into the winter.


        1. Elaine Robinson

          Thanks Janet & David. Agree – I’ll be on full alert next summer & assume swarming is the instinct rather than supercedure if there are only one or two cells on the face of combs in the height of summer! In this particular case I left the cell intact after the attempted swarm, the clipped queen found her way back in the hive and she’s still going strong! Several weeks on, so sign of a second queen, perhaps lost on a mating flight…

  14. Elaine Robinson

    Thanks David, Demarees are new to me this season & I’m learning fast the best way to use this technique! Thanks for your advice, makes complete sense, appreciate you taking the time to come back to me.
    Best wishes

  15. Martyn

    I’m half way through trying this for the first time. I’ve lifted the lid to let the drones out (didn’t seem too bothered to be honest. The weather has been poor this last week so not had chance to visit for over a week. Do I read it that as the queen has a whole brood box to lay in that weekly checks aren’t required after ther 7 day check (a few emergency cells in the upper brood box) until you reconfigure at day 25 or are weekly checks in the bottom brood box sensible ? Weather is better here tomorrow so I can check if its advisable ?

    1. David Post author

      Hi Martyn

      The queenright box should be fine without checks. The Q has ample space and can be allowed to just get on with things. They really should not swarm (but remember that the bees haven’t always read the books!). The top box needs to be checked for queen cells at 7 days. Once they’ve been knocked back there’s little to do as you say until the brood has emerged and you reconfigure the stack.

      If there’s a really good flow of nectar during this period remember that you might need to add some more supers.


      1. Martyn

        thanks David – done as per the guide – emergency cells at 7 days knocked down – kept an eye in the top box re drones initially not seemingly bothered to leave but they were earlier when there was a gap in the weather! Thing is they only knew one way back in so were trying to get into the hive via the now sealed roof.

        I think the drawback is backfilling – I’m on brood and a half (tall stack) and whilst the half pretty empty as brood was hatching the brood box frames were filling up nicely despite two supers one of which was fresh and the other only half full. Of course there will be fine for the bees at some time.

        It will be interesting to find out if the swarming urge has just temporarily been dealt with or it will return later on.

        1. David Post author

          Sealed stores always comes in useful … or you can extract from brood frames (but I almost never do).
          I’ve regularly managed not to have them prepare to pack their bags again in the same season. Demaree usually works pretty well.
          Of course, having said that they’ll be off by the end of the month 🙁

  16. Martyn Hordern

    My mission in life is to teach my bees to read the books and sources I do so we are on the same page and they behave as it says they do.

  17. Martyn

    Hi David

    Day 25. Been up and all brood hatched. Started to put things back together. Queen seen at the bottom and eggs.

    On brood and a half.

    The upper brood box has a few stores in. No eggs anywhere above the QE as exacted.

    After I put the half back on I then check the state of the upper brood.

    I then found 2 open queen cells one with a cap on and open.

    I went through the two upper brood boxes on sat 5 and 8 shaking all the bees off and knocking down queen cells on each occasion.

    I went up 6 days ago to free up some drones.
    I’ve put this brood box back on above a QE but whether there is one or two virgin queen in there I’ve no idea or even what was in the cells.

    Happy I destroyed all QC on each occasion shaking the bees off etc.

    Question is what may happen now?

    I assume the obvious is that if she is a queen and in the half and below the QE they could swarm.

    Thoughts appreciated.

    1. David Post author

      Hello Martyn

      It’s difficult to visualise what you’ve described. I think you’re using brood and a half with the super below the brood box. You talk about the upper brood and the half below the QE. There’s a queen in the bottom box, going by your first sentence. I think you suspect there may be a virgin queen out, or about to emerge, in the upper brood box. To complicate matters, you have a second brood box at the top of the stack after doing a Demaree …

      The bees sometimes reseal queen cells so it looks like they’re yet to emerge, or they patch them up after they’ve been torn down. I’m pretty sure Ted Hooper describes this, but my copy of his book is not to hand. I suspect this is what you’ve seen in the upper box.

      If you’ve got a laying queen in the bottom box(es) I think you’ll be OK. If they were going to swarm when the cell was capped they would have done already.

      A virgin running about above the QE with a laying Q below should also not trigger swarming. It’s not the presence of the virgin Q that initiates swarming by the colony.

      Actually … re-reading your final sentence again, perhaps all the assumptions above are wrong.

      I think it’s about time I wrote a post about the near-impossibility of diagnosing problems with colonies remotely 🙂 Almost without exception the information is incomplete and it may not be safe to make assumptions.

      With apologies!

      PS I meant to add … delayed response after a manic few days of extracting honey 🙂

      1. Martyn Hordern

        Hi David,

        Sorry to add confusion to a busy time !

        Like giving directions I knew exactly what I was saying but clearly you did not.

        Basically I did the Demaree as per the book.

        I was on brood and a half (going double soon)

        I came back to the hive on day 25.

        Queen in bottom brood box going well – eggs etc.

        Hopefully that is a little clearer ? I don’t expect any diagnosis more a comment based on what I have told you.

        I sorted out the trapped drones and returned the half brood box back to its original position above the bottom brood box. There is then a QE and 2 honey supers.

        That left me the brood box that was part of the brood and a half above the second QE.

        On going through that I found on a fairly new frame two queen cells that were open one with the end cap open but still attached.

        I recalled this frame well as on Day 8 I went in to take down any emergency queen cells and there were some on this side of the frame – I had done the same on day 5 on this frame and removed all that there were.

        I left this brood box on top of the stack with a QE on just in case there was a virgin queen in the box.

        I returned the next day having drawn them down (this was after my first question) There were a few drones but no obvious queen.

        My question was – how often do bees draw up queen cells from larvae aged 5 days and secondly what would the impact be if I had two queens – the original one and the virgin in the hive – would they swarm (as far as I am aware they haven’t since albeit its an out apiary – however the owner is aware and would call me if he saw anything)

        1. David Post author

          Hello Martyn

          I don’t think bees can rear a functional queen from 5 day old larvae i.e. 8 days since the egg as laid. Three days perhaps, but not five. If they tried she’d be pretty useless as lots of the early epigenetic changes that need to occur in the very early larva won’t have happened.

          An alternative is that you might have missed the cell(s).

          If there is a virgin in the top box she will have emerged 16+ days after starting the Demaree, but at least a week before your 25 day check. The fact they hadn’t swarmed by then suggests to me they won’t. Swarming would be expected about 9-10 days after doing the Demaree, when the queen cells were capped.

          What to do next? I’d probably just risk it … 😉 You could put a clearer under the top brood box but over a queen excluder on top of the supers. Assuming the queen isn’t a tiny little runt she should be stuck above the excluder for you to deal with.


  18. Petar

    If I leave a queen cell in the upper box with the intention of replacing the old queen subsequently, will this lead to swarming of the colony? If so, should I separate the upper box with a solid board instead of a queen excluder?

    1. David Post author

      Hello Petar

      How is the queen going to get mated if she’s in the top box above the QE?

      When I want to requeen a colony I usually add a split board and provide an upper entrance (facing the other direction).

      Split board

      Once the new queen is mated I disassemble the hive, remove the old queen and unite the two halves over newspaper.


      1. Petar

        Hello David,
        Thanks for your answer!
        Well, like you said, an entrance for the top box should be provided so that the new queen could fly and mate. But my worry is about the potential risk of swarming if I separate the top box only by a queen excluder. Have you tried this option?

        1. David Post author

          Hello again Petar

          I’ve not done that … at least not knowingly 😉

          Although a colony usually swarms when queen cells are sealed, they don’t if the cells are above a QE. I regularly use the Ben Harden system for queen rearing. This is essentially a double brood colony separated by a QE, with the grafts in the top box.

          Good luck

  19. Dorothie Jones

    Hi David

    I have a question more about vertical splits than Demaree (where you would remove all the queen cells in the top box.) I used this successfully last year, although it was quite heavy lifting for a short person like me!
    With a vertical splits you are very confident that multiple virgin queen cells in the bottom box will not result in swarming but leave only one queen. Can you explain why this is!
    Also that any queen cells in the top box will be torn down?
    I want to try this this year but am nervous about not inspecting/removing surplus queen cells!

    Thank you

    1. David Post author

      Hi Dorothie

      The reversal of the hive on the 7th day after setting up the split is important. This bleeds off the majority of the workers from the bottom box (containing the QC’s) to the queenright top box. With a depleted bee population there shouldn’t be enough bees to swarm. They should tear down ‘excess’ queen cells.

      Of course, I can’t guarantee it will work as I describe … but I’ve done it lots and lots of times and been successful.

      Good luck

  20. Archie McLellan

    Hi David

    I hope you don’t mind me attaching a question to an older post.

    You wrote above:

    ’10. Go through the upper brood box and remove every queen cell. Shake the bees off the frames to do this. Push the frames together and add one additional frame. Add the crownboard and roof.

    ‘Leave the colony for one week. At the next inspection you should only need to check the top brood box (i.e. the original one).’

    If the bees start raising a queen as soon as you finish setting set up the Demaree (because you’ve removed all the queen cells), then they will choose young larvae, say day 4 from laying. The queen cell is usually sealed on day 8-9, ie 4-5 days later.

    Why then leave the colony for 7 days before inspecting and removing queen cells?

    Many thanks.

    1. David Post author

      Hi Archie

      Apologies for the delay in responding … it’s been a busy weekend.

      You’re right on your timing for raising cells, and that they will usually choose a young larva, meaning that queen cells will be evident earlier than 7 days. However, they can raise cells from older larvae … if you go on day 5 for example, the youngest larvae above the QE will be just 2 days old. These can still sometimes be selected if they colony is committed to rearing a new queen. They can even select larvae of three days I think if they’re desperate. They probably don’t make for good queens, but that’s not the point … the colony are trying to ensure their reproduction.

      If you wait until the seventh day the youngest larvae will be four days old – 3 days as eggs, 4 after hatching – which is too old. If you therefore knock off all queen cells on day 7 they are incapable of rearing any more.

      The fact that it coincides with a convenient once-a-week inspection cycle is an added benefit 😉

      Many queen rearing/swarm control manipulations involve a similar 7 day period between setting something up and checking for QC’s … for exactly the same reason.


      1. Archie McLellan

        Thanks David, that’s great. I take your point about closing the window for rearing a new queen and that there HAS to be a check at the 7 day mark. I was wondering if there needed to be a check a couple of days earlier because if there are sealed cells around day 4 or 5, might not the bees swarm?

        Sorry for taking your time with this, and many thanks.

        1. David Post author

          Hi Archie

          In my experience bees don’t swarm unless there’s a sealed QC in the box with the queen in it (at least, assuming there aren’t other triggers of swarming operating). In a Demaree the lower box has loads of space for the queen to lay and the hive has (physically) more space, so they’re less crowded.

          If you think back to the Ben Harden system for queen rearing, the lower box has a laying queen and the upper box – separated only by a QE – has developing queen cells. I think I’ve only had one Ben Harden setup swarm in the all time I’ve been using it for queen rearing, and that was when I was sloppy and didn’t check the lower box of a very crowded hive (in which I subsequently found sealed cells). I don’t think they swarmed when the grafts in the upper were capped. Usually you do the grafting and use the capped cells ten days later … with no problems with swarming.

          It’s almost as though the QE makes the upper and lower boxes two separate domains, where events in one don’t necessarily influence events in the other.

          Of course, bees being bees, I can’t guarantee it 😉


Comments are closed.