These steps produce a nuc and also form one method of ‘preventing’ swarming, where a colony is well established in early-mid April.
1. Prepare a ‘spare’ brood box with a full complement of frames fitted with foundation and place it on a spare floor close to the parent colony.
2. You will also need a cover board and a roof but not on the first move.
3. Remove 4 frames from the centre of the ‘spare’ brood box and put to one side
4. Remove the roof, cover board and any supers from the parent colony and put to one side.
5. Extract at least three frames of brood in all stages without dislodging the nurse bees and place them in the gap you have made in the ‘spare’ brood box.
6. Find a frame of stores (pollen & nectar) and add it to the spare brood box, which should now have its complete complement of frames.
7. Place the four frames of foundation around the remaining brood frames in the parent colony.
8. Re-assemble the parent colony, which should include a queen excluder, but do not replace the cover board and roof.
9. Place the ‘spare’ brood box with its ‘borrowed frames’ at the top of the reassembled parent colony and replace the cover board and roof.
10. Leave for 24 hours.
11. Remove the filled ‘spare’ brood box, place it on the floor (see 2 above)
12. Shake some more ‘nurse’ bees from the parent brood colony into the new colony and add the roof.
13. You might want to enclose the occupied frames with dummy boards. (I would transfer them into a nuc box at this stage to save equipment - Anne B). After 48 hours, when all the flyers have gone back to the parent colony, feed the bees in the new box with a 50:50 syrup.
IF there was a queen cell (preferably uncapped) on any of the frames which you moved you are one step nearer a viable nuc. But remember not to shake the bees off any frame with queen cell as that could dislodge the embryo queen.
BUT that almost certainly indicates that there are also queen cells in the parent colony, which means that you will have to follow your preferred swarm prevention procedure.
John Cosburn, currently HBA President, is a large-scale bee farmer with many colonies in Hampshire and further west, who was the beekeeping instructor at Sparsholt Agricultural College.