This page is credited in full to Dave Cushman who created it. His voice is expressed in black colour text and any additions or comments in blue belong to myself. Credit: Dave Cushman’s website.
A manipulation method for honey bees
The Demaree method is not just a method of manipulating bees, but is a system that can be used for swarm reduction or queen replacement or producing nuclei. Any or all of these options are available at the same time.
Wedmore was a big proponent of this system, which was first described by George Demaree in an article in the American Bee Journal in 1884. I had long been aware of the ideas, but had not tried them when a friend of mine, Bob Boone, (a fellow bee equipment manufacturer) enthused over all of the possibilities and I resolved to try it for myself.
The method and Wedmore’s variations on it have been the basis of my beekeeping up until I no longer had the physical strength to do the lifting involved.
The principle behind the Demaree method is the rearrangement of a colony, on one site, in such a way as to separate the queen and foraging force from the brood and nurse bees. That is about the simplest way of stating it, but the permutations of different ways of doing it are enormous.
My way of doing it…
If I found queencells during a routine inspection I would shift the open brood box to one side and cover it with a cloth.
Locate a spare brood box with foundation or drawn comb (I used to store several in each apiary so that they were always available) I would also have spares in the van if none were already stacked up. This spare box minus it’s centre comb was placed on the original floorboard.
Run through the original box and find the queen, take her and the frame she was found on and place it in the centre of the new box, removing any queencells that are on that frame, as you do so.
Put the queen excluder on this new box and then the supers (add another super if thought prudent at the time). Place an additional queen excluder over the supers.
Returning to the original box, move the combs to one side of the box and fill the empty space at one side with the odd drawn comb that was removed to make the gap. This box now goes on top of the topmost queen excluder.
Fit crownboard and roof and the job is done.
The original Demaree method actually allowed the bees to swarm, which required that they be collected (a great deal of un-necessary work and a risk of losing the bees completely). After some trials it was decided to treat the colonies as if they had swarmed even if they were making no swarm preparations.
This regimental treatment of all colonies was aimed at suppressing swarming. and was totally successful for a period of 14 to 21 days. To further extend the non swarming period, the queen excluders could be removed allowing the original queen full use of the combs. This gave another 14 to 21 days with about 90% chance of swarm suppression.
Requeening a honey production hive.This is probably the most common usage of the method and to be true to the originators ideas you should do this upon finding queencells. In practice I used to carry out the manoeuvre on all colonies in an apiary if I found queencells, that I had not anticipated, in any hive in that apiary.
I always had spare boxes with mixture of drawn comb and frames of foundation available either in the back of the van or sealed up, stacked on hive stands, in the apiaries concerned. The supers were already off, the brood box was placed on one side and a fresh box placed on the original floor. The central comb was removed from the new box and retained for later. The original brood box was searched and the queen and the frame that she was found on were placed in the central gap in the new box. A fresh queen excluder was placed on this new box the original supers replaced. The original queen excluder was placed on the supers and the brood box with the occupied frames was placed on this. The frames being pushed together to remove the gap that the queen’s frame left and the spare comb placed in the outside position. Crown board and roof on the top of the stack and our job is finished. This all takes less time than it took for me to type the description.
Producing two stocks from one… By introducing a split board instead of the uppermost queen excluder, a few days later.
Producing two, three or four nucs, whilst still producing some honey. The upper box is replaced by several nucs or a brood box that is fitted with divisions inside it.
Another way of doing it.