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Demaree demystified

The Demaree method of swarm control was first published in the late 1800s and has evolved since. When using the Demaree method, the beekeeper separates the queen from most of the brood by manipulating the frames and a using a queen excluder. The result is a hive with little congestion and lots of room for the queen to lay. In essence, the hive “believes” it has already swarmed.

Here are the basic steps:

  1. Remove the hive from the hive stand, leaving only the screened bottom board and slatted rack (if you are using one).
  2. Above that, place a brood box filled with empty drawn comb.
  3. Remove the center two frames of drawn comb and set aside.
  4. Go back to the active brood boxes and find the queen.
  5. Place the queen and two frames of sealed brood in the center of the new brood box.
  6. Place a queen excluder above this box.
  7. Above the queen excluder, place one or more empty honey supers (with frames) and then the original brood box where you found the queen. Push the brood nest together in the center and put the two empty drawn frames (from step 3) on either end of the box.
  8. Add your inner cover and telescoping lid.
  9. After one week, go through the top brood box and remove any swarm cells.
  10. If necessary, the entire procedure may be repeated after 9 or 10 days.

Lid
Inner cover
Brood box with sealed and unsealed brood
Honey super
Honey super
Queen excluder
Brood box with drawn frames, 2 frames sealed brood, and queen
Hive stand with bottom board and slatted rack

 


Now that you have the hive set up, this is what happens:[list: icon=”check”]
  • The nurse bees stay with the brood and care for it.
  • The field force continues to forage for honey and pollen.
    • The queen continues to lay eggs and has lots of places to do so.
[/list]

This situation is much like a hive that has already swarmed. The major difference is that both parts are in the same box. However,[list: icon=”check”]

  • As soon as the queen scent decreases in the top box, the bees will try to raise a queen from young larvae.
  • You may destroy these cells or remove them to a nuc.
  • After the brood hatches, the brood cells will be backfilled with honey.
  • In the end, the hive will not have swarmed, so it will contain lots of bees and lots of honey.
  • The growing hive may once again develop the urge to swarm, which is why a second Demaree is often needed.[/list]

The Demaree method can be quite effective at swarm control, but as you can see, it is quite labor intensive. It involves a lot of manipulation, good opportunities to lose or damage your queen, and a lot of heavy lifting. On the other hand, not only can you prevent swarming, but you can obtain some queen cells in the process.

One more important point: When you set up the Demaree hive, be sure to remove any swarm cells that are already present. Any cell not removed may hatch and cause a problem within the hive.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

Comments

Phillip
Reply

I was talking to a local beekeeper on Friday about this method of swarm control. He said it’s simply a matter of separating swarm cells from the queen by placing the frames with swarm cells in a deep over the regular brood chamber with a excluder in between. He didn’t say anything about destroying swarm cells or adding honey supers. Everyone seems to have their own ideas about how things are done. Thanks for the clarification and explaining how it works.

whizbo
Reply

This sounds dangerous in colder climates. Where will the cluster form if the temperature drops? Is there a risk of freezing the queen or the brood?

Rusty
Reply

I agree this is a dangerous maneuver if there is a severe temperature drop. In cold conditions there might not be enough bees to adequately cover both the top box and the lower box. I get the impression (completely unscientific, just a hunch) that the DeMaree method is not as popular as it used to be and I think this is one of the reasons. The other reason is that it’s so invasive to the hive–something I believe is falling out of favor. Personally, I stay away from this method because I live in an area with erratic and unpredictable temperature fluctuations and I like to stay out of the brood nest when possible.

Jeff
Reply

So Rusty,

What is your preference to prevent swarming once you have discovered swarm cells (queen cells) within a colony?

I have a colony that has two deeps and a medium super of capped honey/sugar syrup on it. I am planning to try the checkerboard method with this colony for two reasons: This queen will be 2 years old in July and swarmed last year due to sufficient resources and I want the bees to draw out additional medium foundation ASAP to use for splits/honey supers.

So in the spring I plan to have four boxes starting from bottom to top with two deeps (existing brood boxes) followed by the two medium supers with 10 frames of capped comb and 10 frames of foundation being checkerboarded. I may remove one deep if they have not started laying into it in the spring and save the empty deep foundation for other things.

Should this work?

Thanks

Rusty
Reply

Jeff,

Your set-up sounds good. I think it should work. As for preventing a swarm after swarm cells are already built? That is tough. At that point, I usually just split the hive and put the old queen in the new hive so it feels (to them) like they’ve already swarmed. I leave the swarm cells in the old hive so they can raise a new queen. Later on in the year, you can always recombine them if you want a big hive going into winter. See “How to make a swarm-control split.”

Jeff
Reply

Hey Rusty,

So can I use the demaree method to make a 2 queen stack? If there is an indication that the colony is going to swarm Can I keep the queen below and move some swarm cells above and let the virgin(s) mate with the only the only thing separting the virgin queen from the original laying queen being a queen excluder. THe hope is the daughter queen workers would not have an issue with the orginal queen while there is a honey flow. So the arrangement would look like:

Honey Super
Single Deep (Swarm cells)
Queen excluder
Honey Super
Honey Super
Double Deep with orginal queen and some capped brood and enmpty comb.
Bottom board

Then as the honey flow subsides in the fall recombine the colony and remove the old queen so there is a young queen going into the winter? As mentioned above the heat from the lower colony keeps the new colony above warm until it gets rocking.

Any thoughts?

Thanks Rusty

Rusty
Reply

Jeff,

The only thing I would do differently is use a double screen board instead of the queen excluder. The workers will fight because they can walk right through the excluder. I’ve run successful two-queen hives, but always with a double-screen board between them.

Grace
Reply

Silly question: is there drawn comb in the empty super directly above the queen excluder or is it just an empty super to create vertical space between the queen and the majority of the other bees?

I have a hive built from a five-frame nuc I got the last week of April. I get into it about every 2 weeks because of poor weather/cool conditions in Eugene Or. I added a 2nd brood box over the 1st 2 weeks ago. Checked it yesterday when we noticed some aborted bees on the landing board and found 4 swarm cells on the middle frame, hanging from the bottom, which are sealed. There is minimal development with no brood in the 2nd brood box.

My bee keeping neighbor recommends inverting the boxes (most populated on top) with 2 frames of capped brood placed in the 2nd/mostly empty brood box (now
on bottom) so the bees are forced through it when accessing the hive.

I thought bees tended to build up? What do u think? Why are my new bees (plenty of capped brood, pollen, honey) building swarm cells?

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