Swarm control using the Taranov board

 

Rusty, over at honeybeesuite, posted about the Taranov board a few years ago. I was fascinated by the idea and made one which has been patiently awaiting its day of glory.

I normally can control swarming by being pretty aggressive with checkerboarding and stealing brood for weaker hives or for a new nuc. But sometimes, the bees’ plans don’t match mine and they get ahead of me…

I thought I could get away with using one deep brood box and then just super over it, but when I went into the two hives with that set-up, I found the entire deep loaded with brood and almost no more room for the queen to lay. And we know what happens when that happen…swarm prep! I didn’t have anymore deep frames so I found mediums with the small cell foundation (I had these to make up nucs in case I sold any) and placed those over the deep to expand the brood nest and hopefully forestall any swarm plans they may have.

Thankfully I decided to check the hives last week only to discover the so-called “nuc” (it was a nuc last year, not anymore!) had at least 12 queen cells filled with larvae and 2 of them were close to being capped. My strategy of adding the medium apparently worked for one hive but not the other.

So, what to do? Do I split them, giving each half queen cells? Let them swarm (I knew I couldn’t do that)? By this point in their swarm preparations, there was no stopping them. My only solution was to “fake” a swarm thereby decongesting the colony. I don’t know that you can “fool” the bees into thinking a swarm occurred, but they’ll certainly recognize that there are fewer bees and the old queen is gone.

As an aside, once I started the process of using the Taranov board, the sheer number of bees in that “little” hive was truly staggering.

The idea of the Taranov method is to mimic a swarm by removing the old queen and the nurse bees that would normally accompany the swarm. Since the nurse bees have never left the hive, they don’t know how to get back to it. Also, the queen is generally too heavy to fly back to the hive. (she hasn’t stopped laying yet in anticipation of swarming). The Taranov method essentially uses these factors to separate the bees by using a short gap…yes, just a small gap. This gap is surprisingly effective as you will see. So if it works as planned, the nurse bees and queen stay put while the foragers just skip over the gap and go back to the parent hive holding the queen cells. Really, really interesting to watch.

Here’s what I did–at 5 pm after work thank you very much–with the Taranov board:

The instructions tell you to set the board such that gap between the end of the board and the hive front is 4″ but mine was more like 12″. As I didn’t have a staple gun handy to staple the sheet to the top of the board (just behind the blue rag) I decided to drape it on the grass and set the ramp on it. The sheet prevents the bees from becoming entangled in the grass.

Then each frame was taken out of the hive, shaken or brushed (upwards!!) to clear the frames of bees. The frames with queen cells were definitely brushed, not shaken, to protect the queen larvae (click on each picture).

 

Once that was done, the frames were replaced in the parent hive and it quickly began to refill with the foragers as they made their way home:

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Watch the video–so cool!

They didn’t cluster under the blue cloth as they were supposed to. I believe that was a function of the sheet being under the ramp. In general, the queen is expected to find the dark place which in this case would be under the ramp, on the blue cloth. The nurse bees then move to her to cover her. But as you can see, the queen moved down to the bottom of the ramp, where it met the ground and formed a little dark haven for her:

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This video shows the bees moving toward her at normal speed.

So far it has been about 45 minutes since I shook the bees off the frames. I’ve got the new nuc ready for them and all I have to do is pick them up and dump them in. The image with the board in the nuc is after that large clump of bees you see above has fallen from its own weight:

Now for the fun part: watching the bees move to their new home.

Marching in…freaking LOVE this.

Exposing their Nasonov glands and beating their wings to spread the scent of home telling their sisters “This is home! She’s in here!”

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The whole process took about 1.5-2 hours before I moved the nuc to its new location. I counted about 12 dead bees at the end of it. I found none on the grass, the sheet helped tremendously.

This is a great technique if you can just wait for them to sort themselves out. One thing that surprised me was their calmness. I was fully veiled but I’d say only 3 bees ever came close to my head to investigate. They were remarkably peaceful considering what I did to them. I can’t decide if doing it late in the day helped me or not. Even though I was tired from working all day and then coming home to the stress of finding swarm preparation, I think it went surprisingly smoothly. Maybe the sun getting low on the horizon was an incentive for them to finish the job.

I gave the new nuc a jar of food and a pollen patty. I plan to go into one of the hives and still a frame of honey and pollen tomorrow.

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