Swarm Control Made Very Easy – Apparently

Swarm Control Made Very Easy – Apparently

Dr Roman Linhart, the inventor of the Thermosolar Hive describes a method of swarm control on his website that I had never heard of before.  I’m going to try it next year.  Worst case: I lose some swarms.  Best case: I’ll only lose a swarm 1 in 25 years (based on having 4 hives and his method being 99% effective, as he claims).

Again – I would really appreciate any thoughts from beekeepers who have used this technique or might have some data or experience of this theory.

Roman Linhart and Jan Rája with Thermosolar Hive
Roman Linhart and Jan Rája with Thermosolar Hive

Anti-Swarming Theory & Research

His theory and research is based on a colony focusing on spreading its genes through producing many drones (to spread genes) rather than through the colony swarming. The colony then supercedes when the Queen is damaged or old, often in later summer when the queen is typically two years old.

He has written a University Paper, published in 2011: Anti-Swarming Behaviour

In this paper, he claims that the “described method of suppression of swarming mood was successfully tested on 60 honey bee colonies over seven years (2003–2009”).  In the paper he also claims “Honey production in non-swarmed colonies has increased approximately by about 30%”.

He also claims that now hundreds of beekeepers in central Europe are already using this method.

Claimed Benefits Of The Method

According to Roman:

“Vast amount of time and effort saved. 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 s/he would otherwise have to invest in swarm control. When applied correctly, this method absolutely eliminates swarming, as the swarming fever never occurs.”

“The second benefit is increased honey production (30% more).  Drones feed on protein-based food (pollen), not  on the honey. Adult drones do not 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 [Roman’s] 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.”

The following statement is quite interesting too: “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.”

How To Do It – 14×12 Brood Box

  1. You need 3,920 cm2 (608 square inches) of drone comb. This means 4 brood frames in 14×12 brood box.  This also means that to create enough worker bees you need to put a super below the 14×12
  2. In early spring (year 1) place 2 drone frames with flat foundation in the centre of brood box
  3. When they are full of drone brood, you take 2 new frames with flat foundation and place next to the drone frames in the centre of brood box
  4. In Autumn, you put the 4 drone frames on the outside
  5. In early spring (year 2 onwards) you move 2 drone frames (now drawn) from the outside of hive to the centre and when they are full of drone brood either add the further 2 drone frames that have already been drawn from last year, or add 2 new frames with flat foundation

How To Do It – Double Brood Box

  1. You need 3,920 cm2 (608 square inches) of drone comb. This means 6 brood frames in standard National brood box.  This also means that to create enough worker bees you need to be using a double brood system.
  2. In early spring (year 1) place, 3 drone frames with flat foundation in the centre of lower brood box
  3. When they are full of drone brood, you take 3 new frames with flat foundation and place in the centre of the upper brood box. Note: Roman produces new drone comb in the upper brood box using a strip of foundation.
  4. In Autumn, place the 6 drone frames on the outside of the hive
  5. In early spring (year 2 onwards) you move the 3 drone frames (now with drawn comb) in the lower brood box from the outside to the centre
  6. After they are full of drone brood, you take the 3 frames (now with drawn comb) in the upper brood box from the outside to the centre.

How To Do It – More Info

Roman uses a strip of foundation to allow the bees to create their own drone comb and changes the comb every two years. In practice this means each year he creates new comb in the upper brood box and then in year 2 he places this year 1 comb in the lower brood box and creates new comb in the upper brood box. Etc.

He has more instructions on his website: Anti-swarming instructions

And further information on his blog

Calculation For Number Of Drone Brood Frames

  • 14×12 brood frame is 1,070cm2, hence need 4 of these frames with drone foundation
  • Standard brood frame has area of 655cm2, hence need 6 of these frames with drone foundation

Author: Roger

regaining my sanity through beekeeping

12 thoughts on “Swarm Control Made Very Easy – Apparently”

  1. Thanks, Roger, for bringing this to our attention. It seems there is no end of ways to skin a cat. I have been stealing the drone comb from my bees this year for varroa control and they don’t like it. One hive sent me packing this week. Perhaps the bees were right.
    My current lot of girls are a bit aggressive, swarm like crazy but are hardy survivors. They need to be where I live so I don’t want to change them too much. So a low input method of swarm control – this I have to try.
    And the science seems pretty convincing. Ticks rather a lot of boxes.

  2. Maybe I don’t get the full picture on how it works. We know the varroa mites like drone cells, so my question is: “With all the drone frames full of drones, what happens when they emerge from their cells with the mites” To me, the mite situation would get worse.

    1. I would like to understand more too – it would appear that if you are not using drone culling that you get more varroa! I assume his thinking is that the worker bees are less likely to get a virus or be weakened if they only have mites on them whilst they are an adult bee rather than when they are larvae?

  3. Hi Roger, thanks for highlighting this method, which I am strongly inclined to try next year.

    In your ‘How to do it – 14 x 12 Brood Box’ you say that to create enough worker bees you need to put a super below the 14 x 12.

    I can’t find a reference for this in Dr Linharts literature, is this your own modification to his method?

    Many thanks

    1. Hi Ralph,
      Great – the more people trying it the better. Let’s see if it works for us. Please let me know.
      I had a few emails with Dr Linhart and with 14×12’s we need a super below with regular foundation and in the 14×12 box we need 4 sheets of drone comb plus regular worker foundation. We need the additional super to make enough room for worker bees.

  4. Hi
    Seems like a good idea to work with the Biology of the Bee rather than against it by Drone removal.
    Is there a problem with high levels of varroa infestation?
    Is the treatment the thermohives?

  5. Satisfying reproduction fever via the drone rather than the queen line makes sense to me. Does anybody have any results for this swarm control method in the U.K.? My only concerns are 1. opening the brood box in early spring can cause the bees to ball the Queen. 2. Placing naked foundation in centre of brood nest when the colony is still needing to be fairly compact. 3 working out the optimum dates for the spring interventions to ensure enough worker bees for the May honeyflow in my area (Sussex). Be great to hear of anyone else’s experiences, as going to try it this season

  6. I had a few emails back and forth with Dr Linhart a few years back. After that discussion we decided to try turning all our hives into fully foundationless so the bees choose what kind of comb to draw in the brood box. It takes a couple of years to convert them all and we still have 2 hives with deep foundation frames in them, but both of them also have a medium brood box on top that is foundationless. In those 2 hives the upper box is chock full of drone comb, with the foundation below chock full of workers. We could easily split both of those hives a couple of times.
    Our other ten hives are all medium/medium brood boxes with all foundationless. The bees seemed to initially go crazy choosing to build drone comb, but after they had a few frames of Drone done, they started doing mixed frames, and then eventually all worker comb. As a result we have fairly “balanced” hives after a few years. It’s swarm season here right now, lots of posts on FB and elsewhere with local keepers chasing swarms. We inspected all our hives yesterday, not a single queen cell. At least 6 of the 12 are so strong that in any previous year there would have been a boatload of Queen Cells. So does it work? For us, it seems to be working, but maybe we’re just really lucky or it’s just a stage in the cycle that we’re misinterpreting as being related to our crazy setup. YOUR RESULTS WILL UNDOUBTEDLY VARY.

  7. So the questions I have is: My frames are 19 inches by 9 1/8 inches do you calculate the square inches on both sides of the frame or just one? Because the square inches for both sides of the frame comes to 346.75 square inches that would mean that I only need two drone frames dedicated to my hive or is that per supper?

      1. Thank you Roger for your reply. I am from america and so run Langstroth hives. With that, you should know that we run two brood chambers (Deep Supers) per hive. For the honey production, we run a queen excluder on top of the two brood chambers and then the honey suppers either deep or medium above that. So my question above was, for clarification purposes, should I put two frames of drone brood per brood chamber? Or just the two frames per hive?

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