Demareeing - a strategy to mitigate swarming

At the last ACT Beekeepers Association meeting there was a talk planned on spring preparation which has been postponed to this months meeting. Specifically, there was some discussion on swarm prevention with a method alluded to but not explained (I expect that will be discussed at the next meeting). Without formally knowing what is going to be discussed, I thought it would be timely to bring up the topic of Demareeing as a swarm prevention method.

Demareeing is a hive manipulation strategy used to reduce swarming, named after George Demaree. Rather than repeat the concepts directly, I will defer to the late Dave Cushman’s online beekeeping resource with explanation on how he completed a ‘Demaree’. (I prefer Dave’s original text and definitely don’t endorse the clipping of queens)

Demareeing A manipulation method of honey bee colonies

Some may notice that minor facts described in the method are often inconsistent, which displays how the process has evolved over time. Interested in how far the modern concepts of ‘Damareeing’ had drifted from their origins, I located the original articles sent by George Demaree to the American Bee Journal describing his process.

What’s particularly interesting about these articles is that the earlier article (1884) describes a fairly convoluted process that involves multiple hive boxes/components surplus to the primary hive to complete the operation. This doesn’t really reflect the modern Demaree process. This process also received some criticism from other beekeepers writing to the journal.

In the later article (1892), you can clearly see the change in approach and refinement of a process over many years. It’s also an excellent insight to see the attitude toward the established culture of beekeeping at the time, with the first article carrying a fairly stern message to other contributors to the journal.

> ## Controlling Increase, etc. > G. W. DEMAREE. > American Bee Journal Volume 20. (1884) p.619

It is not my purpose to “moralize,” as the manner of some is on such occasions as this. Let the past with its successes and failures sufice us. It is with the present and future that we have to deal. It is enough to say that the past honey season has not been satisfactory to most of us.

The flow of nectar from white clover was marvelously profuse, but the period was too short to give a full crop. Many of us made the mistake of laying our plans too broad for the short harvest, which we did not anticipate. I, for one, have learned something in that direction, and from that experience. Hereafter, I shall work my bees for what is in sight, and broaden my plans if the occasion demands and justifies it.

I wish to call your attention to the fact that many persons begin to talk and write as though bee-culture, as a science and as a practical industry, has reached the top round of the ladder. Let no one be deceived by the exhausted ideas of such. I am willing that it shall go to record when I say here, that the present mode of handling or manipulating bees and bee-implements, in short, the present system of bee-keeping, which we proudly call the “modern system,” will, in the near future, be revolutionized and made a thing of memory only.

There is no question, pertaining to apiculture in the South, of so much importance as that of controlling increase. In the North, where long, cold winters hold the “balance” with the grip of death, it is well enough to say, “let the bees swarm.” With us, bees succumb to nothing but the expiration of the lease of life, or straight-out starvation. Not a fatal case of the disease known as dysentery or diarrhcea, in the North, has ever come to the knowledge of the writer, in all Central and Southern Kentucky. Most of us have seen bees with distended bodies when confined to the hives unusually long during unusually cold winters; but single flight in the open air is all that is necessary to restore them to a normal condition. The Southern apiarist smiles at the conceit of the pollen and hibernation theorists. Our bees gather pollen eight months in the year, and “snap their fingers” at pollen chimera.

As to the “sleepy-headedness” of bees: In January, 1881, my bees could be seen either on the wing or stirring about the entrances of the hives every day but three in that month. They wintered well without sleep (?). Why, sirs, if I should follow the advice of some who say, “let the bees swarm,” my apiary would multiply to 2,000 colonies in four years, provided that I would covenant to let none of them starve!

In the light of these facts, any system of management that does not put the matter of increase entirely at the disposal of the apiarist, needs improvement, and is sure to be improved. It occurred to me years ago that if queenless bees could be employed to produce honey, the problem would be solved; and, now, after experimenting considerably in that direction, I am prepared to say that I can control increase by employing queenless bees to gather my surplus crop of honey; and in order that others may aid me in perfecting the new system, I will here give you a description of the practical working of the plan:

In the early part of the honey season, the surplus cases are adjusted on the hives in the usual way, and “further proceedings continued” till the colonies show signs of swarming. I then move the old hive from its stand and put a new (or empty) hive in its place, and fill up the new hive with empty combs, one of which must contain some larvse just hatched from the eggs. The case or cases for surplus honey are now lifted off of the old hive and set, with all the bees in them, on the new hive. You now look up the queen and put the combs in which she is found, in your comb box, and then proceed to shake the bees from the combs into the old hive right in front of the new one, having first provided a slanting board to lead the bees to the entrance. Place the combs back in the old hive, to which add the comb with the queen, and set the old hive at right angles with the new one. It is best to spread a cloth over the old hive to disguise it for a day or so.

It will be seen that the new hive contains nearly all of the field workers, and a large portion of the young bees for comb-builders, while the old hive has all the brood with the queen, and enough workers and nurses to push forward brood-rearing.

The bees in the new hive will start queen-cells and gather honey with the greatest rapidity. In five or six days we begin to turn the old hive, a little at a time, so as to stand close by the side of the new one, bringing the entrances of both hives, practically, together. At the expiration of ten days (if the honey season continued good) the old colony will be strong enough to spare additional working force to the honey-producing colony in the new hive; and to accomplish this, all we have to do is to turn the old hive back to its former position,at right angles with the new hive, at a time when the bees are in the fields in full force, and as they come home loaded, they will enter the new hive and recruit its failing strength.

Of course the queen-cells must be removed, and freshly-hatched larvae given in their place. When all danger of swarming is over, the old hive is brought in line with the new one, and the bees are united by “tiering up” the new hive on the old one, and thus the honey-harvest is finished up by the united colony.

It will be noticed that I speak of employing two hives for each colony, which I distinguish by the terms “new” and “old.” Well, now I propose to dispense with the extra cost of the “new hive,” and in its place use the supers or surplus cases adjusted on a recess bottom-board. When running a colony for comb honey, I will work a case of shallow extracting-combs on the recess board, and underneath the section-cases, to catch the pollen, if any is brought in. My recess bottom-boards are made just the width of the hive I use, and two inches longer. A strip of wood 3/8x7/8 of an inch is nailed to three sides of the board to give “bee space” under the cases which rest on the elevated rim formed by the strips of wood. The extra two inches in the length of the board is for an alighting-board.

I have now given my new system of controlling increase - suppressing swarming, if you prefer the terms, and producing honey with queenless bees. Of course there will be much criticism. A large minority of beeculturists have always refused to accept anything “new” until they have added some “improvement,” worthless though it may be, to the new improvement or device. I do not object to this. Many fine inventions have been born of absurdity.

Christiansburg, Ky.

> ## How to Prevent Swarming > G. W. DEMAREE. > American Bee Journal Volume 29. (1892) p.545

When discussing this subject the temptation to argue the question, rather than to rely on a simple description of the manipulation resorted to, to accomplish the object in view, is very great. So many apiarists have imbibed the idea that some sort of contraction of the brood-nest is essential to the production of comb-honey, if not the extracted article, that any new discovery that runs counter to this idea of contraction meets a deaf ear, if not open opposition.

Let me say, once for all, that when a new discovery is applied to an old system, it often becomes necessary to revise the old system to accommodate it to the newly-applied discovery. These remarks apply not exclusively to the old system of bee-culture, but to all systems pertaining to all industries. Those persons who are determined to stick to the old paths of the past, are not in position to profit by any new discovery; and this essay is not written for that class of readers.

When your apiary is as large as you want it, what would you give to be able, by a simple, practical manipulation at the beginning of the swarming season, to hold all your colonies in full strength of working and breeding force steadily through the entire honey harvest? You can do it beyond a doubt, by practicing my new system of preventing swarming; and If you have the ingenuity to apply proper management to suit the new condition, your surplus yield will be larger than by any other method heretofore made known to the public.

I have practiced the new system largely for the past two seasons, and my surplus yield was never so large, though it is well known that the past two seasons were not above the average as honey-yielding seasons.

As I have already intimated, my plan of preventing swarming, and entirely preventing increase, is accomplished by one single manipulation right at the commencement of swarming. Only one hive and its outfit is used for each colony. Any system that requires a divided condition of the colony, using two or more hives, is not worthy of a thought.

In my practice, I begin with the strongest colonies and transfer the combs containing brood from the brood-chamber to an upper story above the queen-excluder. One comb containing some unsealed brood and eggs is left in the brood-chamber as a start for the queen. I fill out the brood-chamber with empty combs, as I have a full outfit for my apiary. But full frames of foundation, or even starters, may be used in the absence of drawn combs.

When the manipulation is completed, the colony has all of its brood with the queen, only its condition is altered. The queen has a new brood-nest below the excluder, while the combs of brood are in the center of the super, with the sides filled out with empty combs above the queen-excluder.

In 21 days all the brood will be hatched out above the excluder, and the bees will begin to hatch in the queen’s chamber below the excluder; so a continuous succession of young bees is well sustained.

If my object is to take the honey with the extractor, I tier up with a surplus of extracting combs as fast as the large colony needed the room to store surplus. Usually, the combs above the excluder will be filled with honey by the time all the bees are hatched out, and no system is as sure to give one set of combs full of honey for the extractor in the very poorest seasons; and if the season is propitious, the yield will be enormous under proper management.

The great economy of this system is, all the colonies will produce as nearly alike as can well be - a condition of things that never occurs in any apiary swayed by the swarming impulse. If my object is fancy comb-honey, I tier the section-cases on the super that contains the brood, and push the bees to start all the combs they can; at the close of the season I extract the honey from the combs in the super, and feed it back to properly prepared colonies to have the partly-filled sections completed. The nicest honey in sections that I ever produced was obtained in this way. To feed back successfully, requires as much experience as any other work connected with the art of producing honey, but the theme is too broad for a place in this connection.

The system above described works perfectly if applied immediately after a swarm issues. The only difference in the manipulation in this case is, that no brood or eggs is left in the brood-nest where the swarm is hived back.

Christiansburg, Ky.

At the latest Association meeting, discussion on Demareeing wasn’t discussed due to complexity (and possibly lack of time). I still believe Demareeing is a process worth understanding as it requires less equipment to carry out than full splits and has been used for many years with success.

In the publication ‘A Thousand Answers To Beekeeping Questions’ (1917), there are several references to the Demaree method described by Dr. C. C. Miller in response to subscriber questions to the American Bee Journal. The simplified explanation and practical recommendation of the process should hopefully assist in understanding how easily it can be applied.

In this publication, American Bee Journal subscriber questions are provided, with included responses from Dr. C. C. Miller.

Q. If the queen is given plenty of room, will swarming be prevented, even though the hive be crowded with bees? (pg.240)

A. It would certainly decrease the tendency to swarm, just as increasing the queen’s room for eggs always does; whether it could be relied on in all cases as an entire preventative is hard to say without trying. I should rather expect it would, so long as fresh room for the queen is constantly given, and even when the flow comes and the lower hive is given above as an extracting super, there ought to be little inclination to swarming, as in the case of the Demaree plan.

> **Q.** I kept my bees from swarming two years ago by placing the brood over the queen with an excluder between. When buckwheat came on, I had my hives chock-full of bees. I also had several swarms in September, and that's rather late for Northern New York. I'd like to know how to stop them at that time. (pg.240)

A. Yes, that’s the plan given by G. W. Demaree, a Kentuckian who was prominent in the ranks some years ago. The plan is good and the pity of it is that it will work only for extracted, not comb. The brood-combs being put above become extracting-combs. To prevent swarming in September (which is not usual, I think, but may come where there is a fall flow), it might work to try the same plan over again; extract the frames in an upper story, put them in the lower story with the queen, the brood above, excluder between. If this is done just as buckwheat begins, it seems it ought to work as well as earlier.

> **Q.** I would like to ask some questions about the Demaree plan. You say just before swarming, put all the brood but one frame in a second story over an excluder, leaving the queen below with one frame of brood and empty combs or frames filled with foundation.
  • Do you cut out all queen-cells at this time if there are any?
  • Is it necessary to examine each colony in about ten days to remove queen-cells afterwards? (pg.241)

A. Yes, to your first question. As to the second, generally it ought not to be. The idea is that the bees are in the same condition as if they had swarmed naturally, of course, it sometimes happens that when a natural swarm is hived it throws off a swarm the same season, but that is exceptional. Some have reported that they never have a colony swarm that has been treated by the Demaree plan, while it fails with others.

@RBK Hi Sam, have you tried this with a brood box, ideal super and flow super? or would do you do this with the brood box and ideal super coming into spring before putting on the flow super.

To my understanding, sounds like the ideal and flow super will be in between the 2 queen excluders and even though all the bees will in the top brood box initially, the forager bees will still use the bottom entrance and pass the nectar onto the house bees that will fill the supers up during the nectar flow. Then after 21days when all the brood has emerged in the top brood box, do you then merge the brood boxes back to the one brood box?

Thanks in advance