Swarming

An interesting experiment

Today’s swarming theory argues that the main trigger for the swarming fever is the royal jelly which is swallowed by the worker bees to turn into swarm bees. So I decided to let a few colonies
arrive to a swarming fever. Then I did this: First, I broke all the queen cells in the colonies with swarming fever. Then I put four fully brooded combs with sealed drone brood into each of the colonies. I would like to stress it was sealed drone brood. It is important. Sealed drone comb does not feed on anything so it cannot affect the amount of the royal jelly in the colony. Nor do the drones hatched later feed on the royal jelly. Therefore, they cannot reduce its amount in the colony. If today’s theory of swarming is valid, the colony should continue preparing for swarming. The reason being that the level of royal jelly, which is supposed to be the trigger of the swarming fever, is not affected by adding the drone comb. But it didn’t happen. In all the cases the swarming preparations immediately stopped. The swarm control effect was so strong, that when I added queen cells to the colonies with the drone combs, they were bitten out by the bees. And this is where we need to look for a new basis of extremely effective swarm control based on controlled drone rearing.

Is regular level of drone rearing sufficient for swarm control?


Before we can deal with the issue further, it needs to be stressed that the natural rearing rate of drones has no swarm control effect. Bee colonies living in free nature build drone combs in unlimited extent, based on their needs. They build it below the brood nest or next to it. And yet, it is common for these colonies to swarm. Colonies that build combs in the hive without foundation swarm as well. Though they will produce drone combs in abundance. Natural rearing rate of drones does not have any swarm control effect, and in order to prevent swarming, we need to be able to increase the drone rearing rate. I consider this information so fundamental that I include it in my blog as a separate article.

The theoretical foundation of modern understanding of bee colonies and swarm control drone rearing

I was considering whether to discuss here the complex context of the relationships inside bee colonies and the genetic background of the swarm control method. I decided such a text would be
too demanding and could discourage readers that are not used to scientific texts. Besides, such a text would not be well suited for a blog. I would like to refer those that are interested to an article that has been published on this subject.

Although in this blog I use deliberately the singular, the results discussed in the article have been published in cooperation with the leading experts of the Palacký University in Olomouc. Anyone interested can consult the research paper published in the journal Biologia.

The ratio of sex produced with honeybees


Please be warned that the following text can be slightly more difficult, but it must be introduced in order to fully understand the foundations of the swarm control method. I found out that the amount of worker bees and drones produced is not random and that their numbers and biomass show a ratio. Every worker bee capable of swarming can be seen as a reproductively active female, though it is not able to adequately fulfill the biological role of the queen. The energy invested in raising a sterile worker bee is thus reproductive energy as well. After all, the queen cannon reproduce without worker bees; on the other hand, worker bees are capable of reproduction even without the queen by rearing their own drones! Let’s ask the question, what is
the ratio between males and females produces in honeybees? It is generally known from the literature that:


The weight of a worker bee is about 0.1 g


The weight of a soaked swarm worker bee is 0.15-0.16 g


The weight of a drone is 0.23-0.26 g


With swarm bees I found out that the weight of 0.16 g applies to those bees of the swarm that bear pollen loads. Those are, however, in minority (only 5%). Generally, a typical swarm worker bee weighs 0.15 g. With drones I recorded the average weight in the range of 0.23-0.24 g. For the purposes of the calculations, I assigned the lower weight to the drone, like in the case of the
worker bee, i.e. 0.23 g. Let’s ask the question, how many times is one swarm worker bee lighter than one drone?


0.23 / 0.15 = 1.53


This means that to balance the biomass of one drone we need to use the biomass of 1.5 worker bees after rounding.Explaining this fact was not easy at first. Finally, I calculated the energy efficiency of gene propagation (transmission) of the investing worker bee using worker bees (sisters) and drones (brothers) separately and compared the results. To achieve biomass equal to the biomass of one drone, 1.5 worker bees would need to be produced. With this energy investment in diploid female biomass the amount of gene of the investing worker bee passed on to the next generation could then be


75 + 37.5 which equals to 112.5 genes


If the same amount of energy is used in raising one haploid drone, only 25 genes of the investing worker bee will be transmitted this way:


112.5 / 25 = 4.5


The energy investment being equal, the male biomass of honeybees is 4.5 times worse in terms of worker bee gene propagation than the female biomass. As has already been pointed out, in evolutionary stable reproduction strategy, the total energy investment in both sexes is the same. Although the drone biomass is, in terms of invested energy, 4.5 times worse gene carrier than the worker bee biomass, it should by no means mean that 4.5 times less energy should be invested in the production of males than females. This would violate the basic rule of equal energy investment in produced sexes. If our reasoning is correct, there must be a difference in numbers (not energy) in the investment into worker bees and drones. It necessarily follows that there must be 4.5 times less drones than worker bees produced, having the same total biomass. Let’s take a look at a specific example:

A bee colony containing 6 kg of worker bees, producing of a swarm of 3 kg after the split, must raise 13,043 drones during the season to achieve the weight of the male biomass equal to the weight of the current swarm. The total energy investments in the male and female biomass production will then be equal. But what will be the numerical ratio between the drones and the worker bees produced? Will there be 4.5 times less drones than worker bees, as we would expect based on the calculations? At this point it needs to be pointed out that the worker bees do not have any idea how many swarms will be produced and how will the total worker bee biomass be distributed among them. This depends on the results of the sororicidal fights among the young queens. And these cannot be influenced by worker bees. Therefore, the worker bees rear drones before swarming in the amount relative to the entire female biomass of the colony; not just to the biomass of the swarm. 1 kg of hive bee biomass contains, according to the literature, 10,000 worker bees. 6 kg of the biomass in our colony therefore contains 60,000 worker bees. This means that:


60,000 / 13,043 = 4.6


For each drone there will indeed be 4.6 worker bees. That is in almost perfect agreement with the fact that the drone biomass is for the worker bees 4.5 times worse gene carrier, the energy investment being equal. The slight difference between the expected number 4.5 and the calculated number 4.6 is quite negligible and follows from the average weight data, which we assigned to individual castes in the introduction. It is also remarkable to notice that if we divide the numerical ratio between the worker bees and the drones by the weight ratio between an average worker bee and a drone, we get exactly the value of 3 (4.61 / 1.53 = 3). This is not accidental. Number 3 expresses how many times is a worker bee more related to another worker bee (sister), than it is to its brother (a drone). On average, a worker bee is related to another worker bee of the same father from 75%, and to a drone only from 25%. The proportion of the genes is therefore 3 : 1, for 3 x 25 = 75. The ratio 4.6 : 1.53 in terms of the amount of sexual individuals produced therefore puts through the desired investment ratio 3 : 1 in terms of the number of carried genes. This is another important finding. Because only if the 3 : 1 ratio is observed at the level of biomass of individuals equivalent to one propagated gene, can the balance in the energy invested in propagation of a gene through the male and female biomass be achieved. Because only in such a case it holds that if we multiply the degree of relatedness of the worker bee and the drone to the investing worker bee (member of reproductive – investment complex (RIC)) by their biomass, we get almost identical values. The investing worker bee is related to the swarm working bee (its sister) from 75% on average, and this worker bee is 4.6 times more numerous then the drone (its brother). The investing worker bee is related to the drone (its brother) from 25% on average and the drone is 1.53 times larger than the worker bee (its sister). Given these facts, it is easy to see that if we multiply an individual’s relatedness to the investing worker bee (member of reproductive – investment complex (RIC)) by the individual’s biomass relative to an average individual of the opposite sex (in the case of a worker bee) or by its quantity relative to the opposite sex (in the case of a drone), we get almost the same values. These values represent identical energy investments bound in biomass per one gene propagated by each of these sexes – the swarm worker bee and the drone:

For the worker be it holds that 75 x 1.53 = 114.75


For the drone it holds that 25 x 4.6 = 115

These facts nicely explain the reason for the significant size differences between the sexes; the abundance and high degree of mutual relatedness of the worker bees is offset by the small physical size of the individuals, while the rarity and low degree of relatedness of the drone to the working bee is offset by the large biomass of the individuals. The same amount of reproductive energy is thus split into a large number of small individuals in the case of worker bees, and into a small number of much larger individuals in the case of drones. The size of the individuals of the castes is fixed and does not change, while the numbers of individuals in these castes correlate so that the genetic aspects mentioned above are taken into account. The theoretically ideal 3 : 1 ratio between the sexes produced can be found also with ants. This fact is mentioned for example by the leading foreign experts on ants, Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Ants (1990). It appears that both the bees and the ants can maintain this ideal ratio of castes and energy investments per one propagated gene. Worker bees then purposefully regulate the number and weight ratio between individuals of the male and female biomass. The total biomass of produced drones is equal to the biomass of the swarm, but because the drones are approximately 4.5-4.6 times worse bearers of genes per unit of invested energy, there are 4.5-4.6 times fewer of them produced in the colony. The logical consequence of this is their large size. I consider these findings crucial, as they open the way to swarmless beekeeping, where the danger of swarming doesn’t occur at all. If we know the average size of swarms in individual breeds of honeybees in local conditions, then it is possible to replace the biomass of a potential swarm in terms of energy as wells as genes, simply by increasing the production of drones. In the next chapter, we will see a model example. Let’s count with 4.5, for the sake of simplicity, although 4.6 is perhaps closer to reality. The difference is, however, in terms of practical swarm control quite negligible.

Determining the optimal drone biomass with respect to swarm control


As an illustration, let’s choose a colony of about 60,000 worker bees, producing a swarm of 3 kg. In our swarm control we will offset the biomass of a 3 kg swarm of bees, not the half that would
remain in the colony during potential swarming. It is important to realize that swarm worker bees are soaked, and based on the degree of soaking, the 3 kg swarm may consist of 18-20,000 bees. If we count with the weight of 0.15 g per one swarm worker bee, then the swarm will consist of 20,000 bees.

This means that the biomass of 13,043 drones needs to be first divided by two. This will ensure that we offset just the swarm bees, not the hive bees. We get 6,521 drones. Considering the stable reproduction strategies of the worker bees, this number is the amount of invested energy equivalent to the same swarm biomass of 3 kg. It is precisely the same amount of drones that a wild colony would raise in one season without human intervention. The same amount would be produced on the area of 6.52 dm 2  of drone comb brooded from both sides. It is a smaller area than the area of one Czechoslovak frame, which is the frame size I use, with the area of 9.8 dm 2 . For our swarm control purposes the number 6,521 needs to be further multiplied by 4.5. Only then will the drone biomass be equivalent to the biomass of a potential swarm, not only in terms of energy investment on the part of the worker bees, but also in terms of their genetic benefit. The conclusion then is that a swarm of 3 kg can be replaced with continuous production of 29,344 drones. This number can be rounded up to 30,000. Because a swarm of 3 kg is by far not the maximum!

Raising 30,000 drones will offset in all respects 20,000 swarm bees, comprising a swarm of 3 kg. The number of drones is then 1.5 higher than the number of worker bees in a swarm, 4.5 times more energy is invested in them, and they represent equally valuable biomass for the worker bees in terms of genetics.
An area of 1 dm 2 takes unilaterally 247-250 cells of drone comb. Let’s work with the number 250 for further calculations.


30,000 / 250 = 120 dm 2 .


The combs are fertilized bilaterally, so we need to divide the number by two:
120 / 2 = 60 dm 2  of drone comb
The inner dimensions of the Czechoslovak frame that I use are 35 x 28 cm. Its area is therefore
980 cm 2  (9.8 dm 2 )
60 / 9.8 = 6.12 frames.


And this is still not the final number. We need to realize that the production of drones is a continuous, not a one-time process, and the drone comb will be fertilized by the queen at least twice. We will therefore divide 6.12 by two. The result is 3.06 Czechoslovak frames, which can be rounded off to 3. So far we have talked about a swarm of 3 kg. However, swarms of up to 6 kg have been known. Therefore, in colonies that rear brood in multiple hive boxes we sometimes need to increase the area of drone comb proportionally. This concerns in particular colonies with two queens or strengthened by divides. It is also necessary to take into account that building frames are never fully brooded across their entire area. Therefore, it is better to have the bees build one more.

Here the mathematics ends and my long-standing experience takes over. Here I declare publicly that if a naturally led colony with a single queen has got in the centre of its brood nest a drone comb area equal to the area of four Czechoslovak frames, i.e. 3,920 cm 2  (608 square inch) it will not swarm under any circumstances. In the case of exceptionally strong colonies or colonies strengthened by divides, it is better to apply 5-6 building Czechoslovak frames or their equivalent.

I know that the Langstroth frame size is predominant in the world and that there are dozens of other national frame sizes. It is necessary that each beekeeper calculates, using the above- described formula, how many frames of their size they will need for swarm control drone rearing. I am sure it will cause no problem.

Comments:
John Way
Fascinating! We have plastic “Drone Comb” Frames that are used for Varroa Control over here in North America…
http://www.brushymountainbeefarm.com/Plastic-Drone-Frame-9-1_8/productinfo/364/
So if we have double deep brood supers, a couple in each should work for your idea? They are
slightly larger than your frames but not significantly.

Roman Linhart:
Thank you for your question, John. If the area of your frames is at least 3920 cm2, it will work for sure in two brood suppers with a couple of drone brood in each. Bees will not swarm. As for plastic Drone Comb for Varroa Control, we consider drone cutting as not sufficient for improving Varroa situation. It lowers absolute number of mites in the hive, however it put much higher pressure on worker bees after the drone combs are removed. If the drones are present, they protect worker bee population, because majority of the mites focus on drones. Worker bees are therefore almost without mites, even if the number of mites in the hive is quite high. So we have completely different strategy how to deal with the mites – let them focus on drones, limith their numbers with slight thermal support that prevents repruduction of the mites and than eliminate the rest of them with thermosolar treatment after the drone rearing ends.

 

A new methodology of treatment of colonies, using controlled disruption of their evolutionarily stable reproduction strategy.

 

The methodology that I will describe was created in the conditions of Central Europe. When applying to other regions, it will therefore be necessary to take into account local conditions. To facilitate the development of each beekeeper’s own methodology, I will describe interventions in relation to the generally known plants and their flowers. I will describe its application in a colony wintered in two hive boxes of the size 37x30cm (14.5×11.8 in.). These are higher frames.

The danger of swarming in strong colonies in lowlands starts no sooner than the middle or end of April. That is, after full bloom of apple trees. The earliest swarm we have recorded in experimental colonies in 15 years was on 22 April. The swarming peak occurs between May and June (depending on altitude). That is, in the bloom time of oilseed rape. And it ends in the bloom time of raspberries, in June. After mid-July, swarming is a rare phenomenon. Swarming ceases thanks to the shortening of days, and the stockpiling instinct gradually takes over. I think it is optimal to start rearing the drones as soon as possible.

In North America and Europe goat willow (Salix caprea) or related species are common. These willows are the ideal source of pollen for early brood rearing. During the bloom time of goat willow, colonies cluster in the upper hive box and are easily accessible. They also rear brood here. During the bloom time of goat willow (in my climatic conditions around 15 March) we do not disturb the colonies and let them collect pollen.
A week after full bloom of goat willow (end of March) I take off the hive roof and put two frames of drone comb from the previous year into each colony. I put one of them right in
the center of the brood nest and the second one right next to it. By this time the colonies are already strongly brooding and are no longer in winter cluster. Adding the drone combs form the previous year never leads to hypothermia. After this short procedure I shut the hives. The advantage of adding already finished drone combs is that they can be immediately brooded by the queen. The best time for brooding will be decided by the colony itself. Drone rearing will start as soon as the colony is biologically prepared for it. Usually at the beginning of April, the queens of normally strong colonies will brood the drone comb right after its insertion. Weaker colonies first rear the worker bees and only after growing stronger they engage in drone rearing. Of course, in order to be able to insert the two frames with drone comb after full bloom of the early willows, it is necessary to prepare a room for them in the top hive box in autumn.
After inserting the two drone comb frames, I keep the colonies at rest for 20 days. That is, approximately until 20 April. At this time, fruit trees, especially cherries, are already blooming in
lowlands. And apple trees start blooming as well. It is at this time the second intervention needs to be carried out. We remove both sealed frames with the drone comb and move them into the lower hive box. This makes room in the upper hive box for inserting two building frames. By building frames I mean completely empty frames, which are equipped with a narrow strip of foundation of about 3 cm below the upper bar. Its sole purpose is to serve as a foundation for the colony’s construction of comb and to make it straight. It is necessary that I point out the location of these frames in the bee hive. These building frames must be located in the same place where the frames with drone comb were placed in March. Which means they will also be right in the brood nest. It is important that they are not next to each other; there need to be at least two brood frames between them.

In the bloom time of fruit trees the sexual instinct of the colonies is growing and they have a natural need to build drone comb. Therefore, they immediately use the opportunity and quickly build the drone comb on the building frames. The beekeeper only checks with a short peek whether the colonies are building the drone comb. Weaker colonies may first start building worker bee comb, which is not desirable in building frames. It is because it doesn’t have the swarm control effect. If the bees build worker bee comb, it must be removed and after a week when you
insert new building frames, they will surely start building drone comb.

As soon as four drone comb frames are built and brooded, there is no need to look into the brood chamber for the rest of the season. This makes the work of the beekeeper much
easier. At the end of the summer, the beekeeper just removes the drone comb and cuts the wax combs out of the two older building frames that were inserted first. The beekeeper
keeps the two younger frames with drone comb in order to use them the following year. Let me remind you that when applying this method you always need to calculate the number of
frames you will need in your bee hive. The number of four frames corresponds to the frame size 37x30cm. Therefore, it is important to calculate the number of frames needed, on the basis of the
area needed for a sufficient amount of drone comb. Base your calculation on the above- mentioned amount 3,920 cm 2  (608 square inch).

Comments:
Eric:
Could you explain the relationship between rising drone brood and the desire from bees to
swarm?

Roman Linhart:
Eric, if the colony raise more than 30 000 of drones during one season, it never swarms. At this moment, drones have the same importance in spreading genes of the colony as the genes of the
swarm and therefore the colony do not seek to spread its genes through swarming.

However, to fully explain the problem it would take several pages of specialized text. It is the
theme of my dissertation, it is based on 7 years of research. More can be found in our Biologia journal article (The effect of induced changes in sexual asymmetry of honey bees (Apis mellifera)
on swarming behaviour) or in my new book, which will be soon translated into English and hopefully published in english speaking countries.

What if the beekeeper does not have drone comb from the previous year

 

Even though you do not have two drone comb frames from the previous year, you can still apply this method. Only, the procedure will be different. The first two building frames equipped just with a strip of foundation will be placed in the hive 14 days after the blooming of goat willow. Put both frames right next to the brood nest, each from one side. Insertion will not harm the thermal stability of the colony, as the brood nest will remain whole. In weaker colonies it is also possible to insert just one building frame and add the second one after the first one has been built and brooded. The beekeeper again needs to watch whether the colony is building only drone comb. Any worker bee comb needs to be removed from the building frames.

After the frames have been built and brooded, further procedure is the same as described above. After 20 days the beekeeper moves the brooded drone comb into the lower hive box and inserts two new building frames in its place. When they are built, there is no more need to control the swarming fever. Colonies treated in this way will never swarm.

I would like to emphasize that drone combs are available for repeated brooding by the queen throughout the entire drone rearing season. We never cut the drone comb out because drone
rearing is desirable and cutting the drone comb out would be counterproductive.

An important rule in drone rearing is never to place building frames on the periphery of the hive box, next to the hive wall. The reasons are several. If the building frame is inserted as the
last one, it will be the least heated comb in the bee hive and will be used to store reserves and as a cover comb. For the drone brood to develop normally, it needs to have optimum temperature. The peripheral areas of the colony’s clustering space are not warm enough in April when the temperature drops, because the bees gather in the center of the brood nest. The drone brood would be cold there. The custom of inserting building frames to the periphery of the bee hive is a bad habit that originated in the times when beekeepers used thermally insulated hives with portholes and wanted to see the building frames. They then cut the drone comb out. If the beekeeper still wants to insert the building frames to the periphery of the brood nest, as he or she is used to, it is necessary to make sure the drone combs are isolated from the hive wall by storage combs. If the building frames (no more than two on each side of the brood nest) are integrated between the brood and the reserves, the colony will not abandon it after brooding when it gets colder.

Another reason is that when applying the strategy of raising equal biomass of fertile males and females, bees have no interest in producing so many drones to prevent swarming. If the drone comb is on the periphery of the colony’s clustering space, the bees will build only a limited amount of it. The rest will be built with worker bee comb. This amount of drone comb will not, however, be sufficient to control swarming.

The primary cause of swarming is therefore eliminated by excessive drone rearing. The drones will absorb all the reproductive energy of the colony and thus save the beekeeper’s time, effort and money, as swarming will not occur. However, this state is achieved no sooner than after building and brooding at least 3 or rather 4 building frames of the size 37×30 cm. The fourth frame is usually not covered with drone comb in full; the rest may be covered with worker bee comb. Bees never build more drone comb than they can raise without problems. For other frame sizes, their total area needs to be calculated and ensured. Insertion of building frames of any size follows the same rules as described above. We always insert no more than two building frames at once and we never put them next to each other. When inserting building frames it is possible to insert foundations as well. However, we never insert the foundations right next to empty building frames. The bees would build on the frames leaving out the foundations. When the building frames are brooded, the neighboring foundations are built very quickly. When establishing such areas of drone comb, the colony must raise enough worker bees to take care of the drones. The basic requirement in these tasks is to maintain thermal stability of the bee hive and to do these interventions during the flow period. When the flow is strong, it is necessary to check whether the bees do not put sweet wart in the drone combs. Such drone combs do not have the swarm control effect; they need to be cut out and built and brooded anew. It is necessary to watch this especially during spurt and strong flow.

I would like to point out that continuous cutting of drone comb is nowadays considered a swarm control by some experts. However, the opposite is true. There is also no need to worry that the queen will lose too much time fertilizing drone combs instead of producing worker bees, which will later be active in honey production. As I have mentioned earlier, it is necessary to raise about 30,000 drones. In the climatic conditions of Central Europe this is done mainly in May and June when the queens give all their effort to egg laying. It is common that the queen lays about 1,500 eggs per day in this period. The queen will lay drone eggs for 20 days a year (30,000 / 1,500 = 20). This, however, does not mean that the non-fertilized (drone) eggs will be laid constantly for 20 days. Drone rearing is continuous throughout May and June, until mid-July, i.e. for about 75 days. Out of this period, worker bee production takes 55 days and drone production takes 20 days. For each day that the queen lays drone eggs, there is 2.75 days when she lays only fertilized eggs from which worker bees will develop. 30 thousand drones, each weighing 0.23 g, amount to the total weight of 6,900 g. Drone development takes 24 days. Its adult life tends to be short; in addition drones drift to the surrounding colonies. In 75 days, 3 generations of drones may emerge. At a certain point, there may be approximately up to 10,000 adult drones in the colony (30,000 / 3 = 10,000). This means that the biomass of the colony may theoretically increase by 2,300 g. In fact, there is about a half less of the drones in the colonies (due to their drifting). It is also necessary to take into account the fact that in July there is no flow and the queen stops fertilizing the drone comb. The worker bees rather try to drive the drones away. In mid-June I detected 1,200 g of drones on average in each of the 10 tested colonies in the morning hours. These drones represent a substantial benefit in terms of their thermoregulatory function in the colony.

Benefits of the method


There is a myth among people that drones deprive the colony of its honey. It is necessary to realize that drones are fed with protein-based food (pollen), not with saccharide-based food (honey). Neither adult drones consume honey on a large scale. They leave their colony only for short trips to mating sites and take their stock of honey in their crop. This loss is, however, minimal. It is compensated for by the fact that with their large biomass that is clustered on the combs, drones help warm the brood up and thus release thousands of foraging bees to work on flowers. Based on my observation, the flight frequency at the hive entrances increases with drone rearing 2.6 times. I came to this conclusion by comparing the air traffic at the entrances of hives with swarm control drone rearing and a control group of 10 neighboring hives. In bee colonies with drones, there is a much higher flight activity of the worker bees even when the weather worsens. This is a very valuable feature, increasing honey yields. It has been confirmed by other beekeepers testing this method. And the benefits of drone rearing continue.

In my opinion, the greatest benefit is the vast amount of time and effort it saves. By establishing drone rearing in two visits in spring and not entering the brood chamber for the rest of the season, the beekeeper saves a great amount of time he or she would otherwise have to invest in swarm control. When applied correctly, this method absolutely eliminates swarming, as the swarming fever never occurs.

Many beekeepers try to cut out the drone comb to get the colony rid of the Varroa mite. And they are afraid that drone rearing would increase the number of mites to a level that would endanger the colony. But the opposite is true. As long as there is drone brood present in the colony, the Varroa mite holds only to it. Thus the drone comb reduces the parasite’s pressure on the worker bee caste.

 

Queen supersedures

Any experienced beekeeper knows that queen supersedure is a phenomenon when bees raise a young queen to replace the old one, without swarming and dividing the original colony into daughter colonies. It is generally considered a very valuable feature of some colonies. Other colonies supposedly tend more to swarming and do not carry out queen supersedures. In the course of testing this method, I found that this is not so. When applying the swarm control rearing of drones, I noticed in late summer that the colonies were collectively attempting queen supersedure. The reason was, no doubt, the fact that they could not swarm for two years and thus could not get a young queen. With this method of beekeeping, about 75% of colonies with two-year-old queens perform late-summer queen supersedure or at least attempt it! Another 18% do so spontaneously in the following season. I have observed this phenomenon with a similar intensity regularly since 2005. Based on that I conclude that queen supersedure is an absolutely common phenomenon which enables the colony to get a young mother when it cannot rejuvenate by swarming.

The alleged scarcity of this phenomenon is caused by the fact that thorough beekeepers replace the queens after their second production season, and the less thorough beekeepers have swarming bees. Thus the queen is replaced by different mechanisms. Only few beekeepers let their colonies carry out the queen supersedure in late summer. Queen supersedure is also common in settled swarms with an old queen. It is therefore not a feature limited only to some of the colonies. Almost all colonies are capable of queen supersedure. I believe that the drone rearing and the impossibility of swarming strongly motivates the worker bees for queen supersedure. In the given circumstances it is their only chance to produce a young queen.

In my breeding, queen supersedures are perfectly common with two-year-old queens in late summer (since mid-July). In colonies with younger queens, supersedures are rare. It is a beautiful testament of the fact that bees themselves tend to replace their queen at the end of her second production season, and it complies with the claims of many beekeeping experts. Considering the fact that in supersedure the old queen is killed only after fertilization and egg laying of the young queen, this method is highly reliable. Queens coming from supersedures are biologically the most valuable. Many beekeepers using this method will be glad to confirm that the frequency of queen supersedures increases with this method. It is, of course, still the beekeeper’s responsibility to keep an eye on the age of the queens and replace the old ones.

In conclusion, I must warn queen rearers that it is not possible to combine swarm control drone rearing and queen rearing with the old queen still present. This method of queen rearing requires breeding mood, which is in fact the swarming fever. And the swarming fever is completely eliminated by the drones. The bees do not distinguish between queen cell produced in swarm fever and the one inserted by the beekeeper. If the swarm control drone rearing is established correctly and timely, the bees will destroy all queen cells. Therefore, swarm control drone rearing needs to be done in colonies intended for honey production. It can’t be done in breeding colonies, which are intended for the production of queens.

Nothing remains but to wish you much success with this method, and I will look forward to the valuable response from your practice.