Any experienced beekeeper knows that queen supersedure is a phenomenon when bees raise a young queen to replace the old one, without swarming and dividing the original colony into daughter colonies. It is generally considered a very valuable feature of some colonies. Other colonies supposedly tend more to swarming and do not carry out queen supersedures. In the course of testing this method, I found that this is not so. When applying the swarm control rearing of drones, I noticed in late summer that the colonies were collectively attempting queen supersedure. The reason was, no doubt, the fact that they could not swarm for two years and thus could not get a young queen. With this method of beekeeping, about 75% of colonies with two-year-old queens perform late-summer queen supersedure or at least attempt it! Another 18% do so spontaneously in the following season. I have observed this phenomenon with a similar intensity regularly since 2005. Based on that I conclude that queen supersedure is an absolutely common phenomenon which enables the colony to get a young mother when it cannot rejuvenate by swarming.
There is a myth among people that drones deprive the colony of its honey. It is necessary to realize that drones are fed with protein-based food (pollen), not with saccharide-based food (honey). Neither adult drones 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 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.
Even though you do not have two drone comb frames from the previous year, you can still apply this method. Only, the procedure will be different. The first two building frames equipped just with a strip of foundation will be placed in the hive 14 days after the blooming of goat willow. Put both frames right next to the brood nest, each from one side. Insertion will not harm the thermal stability of the colony, as the brood nest will remain whole. In weaker colonies it is also possible to insert just one building frame and add the second one after the first one has been built and brooded. The beekeeper again needs to watch whether the colony is building only drone comb. Any worker bee comb needs to be removed from the building frames.
The methodology that I will describe was created in the conditions of Central Europe. When applying to other regions, it will therefore be necessary to take into account local conditions. To facilitate the development of each beekeeper’s own methodology, I will describe interventions in relation to the generally known plants and their flowers. I will describe its application in a colony wintered in two hive boxes of the size 37x30cm (14.5×11.8 in.). These are higher frames.
As an illustration, let’s choose a colony of about 60,000 worker bees, producing a swarm of 3 kg. In our swarm control we will offset the biomass of a 3 kg swarm of bees, not the half that would remain in the colony during potential swarming. It is important to realize that swarm worker bees are soaked, and based on the degree of soaking, the 3 kg swarm may consist of 18-20,000 bees. If we count with the weight of 0.15 g per one swarm worker bee, then the swarm will consist of 20,000 bees.