Colony Increase (Method 4)

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A simple method for all beekeepers

This method of increasing colonies can be done at any time during the active season. It is effectively the same as taking a nuc from one colony, except that bees and/or brood come from three or more colonies. I have used it in different forms on many occasions with great success. The main benefits I find are:-

  • You can make up a colony any size from two frames up to a full colony that you can put a super on immediately.
  • If you only take one or two combs from a full colony you won't significantly weaken it.
  • I often make up a full colony with poor combs from several colonies, then do a comb change. This gives me increase and removes poor combs at the same time.
  • If you have a colony that is preparing to swarm, you can move it to another stand, then put your new colony on the vacated stand. This will lose flying bees from the colony that is attempting to swarm, so delaying swarming. It also gives the new colony a full force of flying bees to replace those they will lose.

This manipulation relies on the fact that bees from three or more colonies when put together don't usually fight, though bees from two colonies often do. If you only have frames from two colonies you can overcome the problem by shaking in bees from a third colony.

If the new colony isn't made up as a full colony, it will benefit from frames of drawn comb instead of foundation to fill the gap. It can be given a fertile queen or a queen cell, but remember to remove any emergency cells after 3 days.

I find this method of increase very useful in a number of ways. If I have several colonies building queen cells I can take a frame or two away from each, or I can shake several combs of bees from a colony I don't take any frames from, both of which may help to delay swarming. If I want to keep it in the same apiary I can put it in the place of another colony to take their flying bees. I usually have colonies of different sizes, often several 5-8 comb colonies I am unlikely to be putting supers on, so they are ideal to donate their flying bees. In a couple of weeks I can put another colony that is made up in the same way in their positions.

This method is particularly useful at the end of the season when there is little nectar coming in. At this time all full colonies can afford to lose 2-3 combs.