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.
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
- 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
- In early spring (year 1) place 2 drone frames with flat foundation in the centre of brood box
- 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
- In Autumn, you put the 4 drone frames on the outside
- 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
- 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.
- In early spring (year 1) place, 3 drone frames with flat foundation in the centre of lower brood box
- 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.
- In Autumn, place the 6 drone frames on the outside of the hive
- 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
- 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
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