Swarm Control

The Pagden method of artificial swarming is a very successful and very old system of swarm control. It is one that is suitable for the beekeeper with a small number of colonies.

Queen cells
Colony preparing to swarm

The method depends on finding the queen cells when a colony is preparing to swarm. The method involves splitting the colony to prevent loss of the swarm while keeping the colony working and gathering nectar.

First stage

When queen cells are found swarm control is initiated by moving the original brood box. It should be moved about 1m to one side of the original position.

Swarm Control
Colony with queen cells

A new brood box is placed on the original stand. This box is filled with drawn comb or foundation, leaving space in the middle for two more frames. The original brood box is searched until the queen is found. She is then moved with the frame of brood on which she was found to the centre of the new brood box. Any queen cells on the moved frame are destroyed. A frame containing stores is also transferred to the new brood box.

Swarm Control step 1
Splitting the colony


If there were no drawn combs available for the new brood box and it was filled with foundation, then the colony should be left for 2 days and then fed with syrup. This will enable the bees to quickly draw comb on the foundation giving space for the queen to lay. If the new brood box was filled with drawn comb, then the queen excluder can be replaced together with two supers. This colony now has the queen, plenty of bees, one frame of brood, no queen cells and plenty of space for the queen to lay. Foraging bees will return to this colony as it is on the original stand.

The original brood box, which is on the new stand contains queen cells, brood in all stages and the young house bees. Providing there are some good almost fully fed open queen cells, then any sealed cells can be destroyed to prevent the emergence of a virgin queen for at least 8 days. Care should be taken that this colony is not short of stores. If short, a frame of stores should be given and after 2 days, syrup can be given.

Second stage

The colonies are left undisturbed for one week. The original brood box, containing the brood and queen cells is then moved to the other side of the original position.

Swarm Control stage 2
Moving the colony with queen cells

Foragers returning to this colony will find that the hive has gone and will go to the nearest hive instead, which is in the new brood box with the old queen. This will reinforce the colony with the old queen, and reduce the strength of the colony with the queen cells. This reduction in strength of the colony with queen cells helps to ensure that secondary swarms will not emerge from that colony should multiple queens emerge from the cells.

This method of swarm control is quite successful if carried out as above. It results in two colonies, one with the old queen, and one with a new queen. If the extra colony is not required, once the new queen is laying in the new brood box and has sealed brood, the old queen can be removed and the colonies united using newspaper.

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