Apicultura Wiki



COLONIZING, or propagating bees by dividing or removing a part of the contents of one hive and placing them in another, (known as the dividing or nuclei system) has long been known, arid to some extent practiced, both in Europe and the United States. But owing to the bad success attendant on the practice, its use has in most cases been abandoned, and forced swarming substituted in its stead. This has been the result of a want of information, there being no well denned instruction given in any of the works on bees with which I am acquainted, either how the thing should be done, or the results of the different modes of management. This indicates that it has not been well understood, even by professional apiarists.

In this fast age, when men need but to be sure that a certain thing has been successfully done, before they rush into it, without stopping to inquire how it is done, it is not strange that failure, general failure is the result. This fact has been amply illustrated in every department of business in California, as well as elsewhere.

If the bee-keeper, or person who proposes to become such, will first study the habits and wants of the bee in short, commence the business as an apprentice should that of any trade or profession, determining to understand it to such I would recommend the gradual adoption of the system of colonizing in combination with natural swarming, as laid down in this work.


Frame Hives being the most suitable for the purpose of colonizing, the directions here given refer to their use ; yet the Queen Nursery can be formed and used in any style of hive with profit.


The proper time to commence colonizing is from one to two weeks earlier than natural swarms leave the parent hive, and to continue two months.[1] This depends on the season, and varies in different localities; the nearest approximation to the time would be from eight to ten weeks from the time that they commence to carry in pollen from the willows and other sources of early pasturage, or as soon as drones make their appearance in considerable numbers. In Sacramento and vicinity they commence to carry in pollen about the first of February ; and the first swarms for the -past three years have emerged from the first to the fifteenth of April. In Oregon and Washington Territory, the commencement of the swarming season is probably from three to six weeks later, while in the latitude of Los Angeles, California, it is from two to four weeks earlier.

Suppose the owner of five hives of bees finds, on the twenty-second day of March, that his bees are becoming crowded in the hives, and from the favorableness of the season, believes they would swarm early in the following month. Then let him proceed to make a primary divide,[2] and form a queen nursery in the queenless division.


For this purpose, choose one of the hives that is strong and likely to have the most brood. There should be at least five sheets of comb containing brood in the hive selected for this purpose. If the hives used have their frames suspended from rabbets at the top, as the Langstroth hive, then remove the cap, also the honey boxes and honeyboard. If the frames are glued fasl with propolis, they are to be pried loose, and moved each a little towards one side, in order to make room for taking out the first frame. But if the frames are inserted from the side and held adjusted by means of tenons and grooves, as the California hive, open the door and lid, remove the hone" boxes, chamber floor, (honey-board) and glass frame. The operator should now stand with his left side close to the hive. The front tenons of four frames are first to be raised out of the grooves in the front board ; then move three of them further from the side one, to give space for it to be removed first. Then with the left hand take hold of the corner of the frame resting against the front board, and with the right hand the outer corner. Now raise the left hand, carrying the frame upwards and outwards, moving on the fulcrum, until free from its rest in the sill. The movements should be slow and gentle, yet no time should be unnecessarily wasted. Now place this frame in 'an empty hive ready at hand, then take hold of the second frame in the same manner as before described, and turn the comb with the left hand sufficiently to keep it from rubbing the bees and adjacent comb, then by the upward and outward movement it is freed from its rest (without jar) the same as the first one. As inanjF others as are necessary are removed in the same manner, part being placed in the hive with the previous one, and the others are to be stepped over into the vacancies first formed.

As each comb is removed, it should be examined to find the queen ; if not found by looking them once over, spread a sheet on the ground and take the combs one by one, and with a quick motion shake the bees on it. (In handling combs, care should be taken to keep them with one edge upright to prevent breaking.) The queen will most likely be found in the cluster on the sheet ; sometimes she crawls off the combs and is found on the inside of the hive.[3] When found, place her in the new hive ; then examine the combs, choose one-half of the most mature brood combs and place them in the hive with the queen.

One sheet of comb containing stores should be placed first at the side, and the brood placed compactly adjoining. The empty frames are added, and the hive is ready to receive its share of the bees. The other half of the brood combs, in which are principally eggs and young larvae, together with the remainder of the store combs, are to occupy the original hive after the vertical queen nursery is formed, as follows.



PLATE XXXIV, p. 264, fig. 59. Queen Nursery.

Take a eesabraewly built[4] and choose -that portion of it in which eggs and a small portion of newly hatched larvae are found, and with a knife cut out from the central portion of one or two sections, as shown in plate xxxiv, fig. 59. h is one of the sections which is cut three inches long and seven-eighths of an inch deep. The ends are cut square ; then, three-eighths of an inch from either end, cut down three-fourths of an inch, and take out the piece, leaving a shoulder three-eighths broad on either end for the section or nursery to rest upon. This being placed with the mouths of the cells downwards or vertically, as shown in the figure, leaving a space, as shown at i, which gives room for developing queens in a perfectly straight and natural position, two combs should be so prepared ; then a store comb is first placed at one side of the hive and the combs, prepared as above, placed next to it, and the balance of the brood, and then the store combs next to these, in a compact manner ; an empty frame is added, and the whole covered with a cloth which reaches over the top and down the sides to the bottom board.

The bees are now to be equally divided between the two hives, and the glass frame and honey-board put to their place, and the hives closed up and the apertures arranged for the egress and ingress of the bees. The hives are then to be placed within a few inches of each other ; the one on the right and the other on the left of where the original one stood. This primary divide is best performed in the evening, about one hour before sundown, yet it will do at any time of day. They should be watched for the first few hours that they fly, to see that a proper proportion of them enters each hive. If more are found to enter one than the other, move the one that most enter further away, and the other nearer to the place where the original hive stood ; if this still does not effect the object, close the entrance of the strong one for about two hours, and force the remaining bees to enter the weak one. When the apertures are again opened, a board or cloth may be placed so as to change the appearance of the one receiving more than its share of bees.

The bees now finding themselves without a queen, but in possession of the means to rear young ones, quickly commence to enlarge and build downwards a number of the cells containing eggs; at the same time, the young larvae are supplied with a quantity of whitish matter, called royal jelly, which is of a slightly acid, pungent taste, and is different from the food on which the common brood are fed. These royal cells will be sealed, a part of them on the sixth, and the balance on the seventh day from the time of forming the nursery. When the cells are finished, they present the appearance shown in plate xxxv, fig. 60 ; j9 queen cells, and Jc, worker brood emerging. The queen cells are straight and occupying a pendent position, the queens are larger and more perfectly developed, and a greater number are reared by this method than when the bees are left to rear them, as shown in plate xxxvi, fig. 61 ; s represents queen cells being built outwards and downwards, so that the queens grow in a curved position ; this being an unnatural shape, the queen is not as large or well developed as when raised in straight cells, as previously shown.


PLATE XXXV, p. 266, fig. 60. Queen Nursery with Queen Cells complete.


PLATE XXXVI, p. 267, fig. 61. Section of Comb with Queen Cells as built on side of Worker Comb, fig. 62. Queen Cell as built on edge of Comb.

When queen cells are built on the edge of a comb, as shown in fig. 62, they frequently suffer from cold, which retards, and in many cases entirely destroys them. This danger is avoided by the vertical nursery being arranged so that it occupies the center of the cluster of the bees, by which means a chill is avoided. The bees seldom, if ever, remove an egg from one cell to another for the purpose of development ; hence it is obvious that they are seldom in a position suitable for straight cells, unless so arranged by the beekeeper. This plan is also found to produce more and as perfectly developed queens as if raised to supply natural swarms.

Date the hive containing the queen nursery with the day it was formed, in a conspicuous manner, and in ten days from this time the most advanced of the embryo queens are sufficiently mature to be used in colonies then to be formed, or given to hives supposed to be queenless. The less advanced ones can be used on the eleventh day. But it is not safe to let them remain for a longer period, as the first queen out destroys the remaining ones. See plate xxxvn, fig. 63 ; ft, cell from whence a queen has emerged ; o, cells destroyed by her.


When the queen cells are sufficiently advanced, which is on the tenth day, proceed to form colonies as follows : First select a full and strong hive, having a large amount of brood in all stages, from which to take a colony. Open the hive thus selected, and remove the combs in the same manner as directed for the primary division.

We will suppose the frames numbered from one to nine, inclusive. Ah empty hive being ready at hand in which to form the colony,[5] proceed to take out the frames from the full hive, commencing at No. 1 ; being found full of stores, it is to be placed on the top of the remaining frames, or otherwise disposed of. No. 2, being also found full of stores, is to be placed in the empty hive. No. 3, or any other comb found to contain a large amount of mature brood, should be chosen and placed in the hive along with No. 2. No. 4 should contain eggs and brood in all stages.

A queen cell (fig. 64) having been taken from the nursery, make an aperture with a knife in the center of comb No. 4, and insert the queen cell. See plate xxxvni, fig. 65, which represents a section of the comb together with the queen cell, after having remained in the colony two days. At M is seen the foundation of a new queen cell containing larvae.


PLATE XXXVII, p. 268, fig. 63. Queen Cell as destroyed by Queen. fig. 64. Queen Cell, separate.


PLATE XXXVIII, p. 268, fig. 65. Comb with Queen inserted.


PLATE XXXIX, p. 269, fig. 66. Hive from which a Colony has been separated.

The bees, on finding themselves queenless, and not content with one chance, almost invariably commence the construction of one or more additional cells, and rearing of young in them, and continue to nourish and protect them until the emerging of the supplied embryo queen ; and in case the latter fails, then the new-built cell may be relied on to produce a queen. Care should be taken in handling queen cells not to jar or dent them ; also, not to expose them to cold, and they should be so arranged as not to come in contact with the adjoining comb.

Let the bees remain clustered on the combs, but if they are in the way of inserting the queen cell, brush them gently with a quill out of the way. Watch carefully for the queen, and if found, return her to the hive whence she was taken. In arranging the combs in the new hive, the following order should be observed : first place No. 3 at one side of the hive, No. 4 containing the queen cell next to No. 3, No. 2 next to No. 4, and add an empty frame. There being three combs taken out of the parent hive, (plate xxxix, fig. 66) there should also be one-third of the bees taken to compose the colony.

After having arranged the combs and divided the bees as above, the colony is to be covered with a cloth, as represented in plate XL, fig. 67. The hive should then be closed, and tfye apertures shut, to prevent the escape of the bees. The ventilators are then opened and the hive set in a cool and shaded place till evening, when it is to be moved to a distance of one mile or more, when the apertures for the bees' entrance are to be opened, giving them their liberty. The vacancy in the old hive is filled with empty frames and then closed up, except the place for egress. If it is intended that the colony shall remain in the apiary where formed, instead of removing it to a distance, it is to be formed the same as above, except that both combs should contain mature brood instead of eggs and larvae; the queen cell should be inserted in the center of the comb where a portion of the brood have emerged, as shown in plate XLI, fig. 68. The young bees are also to be separated from the old ones.[6] This is done by shaking them from the combs on a sheet ; the old ones take wing and return to the parent hive, while the young ones remain on the sheet. One-third of the bees should remain, and be put in the new hive having the combs as previously arranged ; before putting the bees in the hive, they are to be examined to find if the queen is among them, and if found, return her to the hive from which she was taken.


PLATE XL, p. 270, fig. 67. Hive containing Colony.


PLATE XLI, p. 270, fig. 68. Comb containing Mature Brood, also Queen Cell inserted.


The hive containing the colony is then to be closed up, and with the ventilators open, set in a cool place as above directed. As soon as it is dark it should be set on the stand, and the apertures opened for the working of the bees. Do not open the door or remove the frames for the first six days, for if done, many of the bees will take wing and return to the parent hive. By this time the queen and most of the brood have emerged from the cells. The hive is then to be opened and all the bees are to be shaken or brushed from the two brood combs, which are now nearly empty. If many bees are found, proceed as follows : open any strong hive and choose two or three combs (according to the strength of the colony they are to be placed in) having eggs and young brood. All the bees are to be gently brushed from the combs with a wing or quill. Then after one comb containing ample stores is placed in one side of the hive containing the colony, the former are to be placed adjoining with two empty frames added, and the whole covered with a cloth and the hive closed, except the apertures for egress and ingress. The two combs taken from the colony are put in the hive in exchange for the brood combs removed.[7]

But if the colony is found to be weak, choose two combs with mature brood instead of eggs and young brood. From six to ten days after this last change, the colony will be found to have a fertile queen,f or if the first embryo queen has failed, sealed queens will be found in the combs. If found to have a fertile queen, the organization is complete, and all that is wanted afterwards is to add empty frames or suitable combs, and see that the combs are built straight. Colonies formed and left in the same apiary do not work much for the first week ; this is owing to the fact that the bees are too young to go forth to labor in the fields. As there is but little labor to be performed in the hive, all that is wanted is to maintain the animal heat to develop the brood. On the sixth day, when the combs are exchanged as directed, they will have commenced work. Receiving young brood at this time stimulates them, and gives them profitable employment. And having a young queen, before they commence comb building, (which they do about this time) they build worker cells, most of which are supplied with eggs as soon as the queen becomes fertile.

The hive containing the queen nursery, having a large amount of mature workers, will build drone comb during the time they are queenless ; but as soon as a queen emerges they change and build worker comb, at which time the drone comb should be removed. But the hive having the old queen continue their labors with increased vigor, and fill up the vacancy mostly with worker comb, using it both for breeding and laying up stores.

The advantages gained by moving colonies to a distance as previously directed, are these:

FIRST. It saves time to the bee-keeper, there being no need of separating the young bees from the old, being moved such a distance as to prevent their returning to the parent hive, which many of them do when left in the same apiary.

SECOND. The colonies can be placed some distance apart, obviating the danger of the young queen entering the wrong hive, as is frequently the case when packed closely on the stands. When the queens become fertile, these colonies may be returned to the original apiary, and placed in compact order without serious disadvantage. When formed as described above, it is safe to remove colonies a distance of from one to ten miles in a spring wagon, if deferred until the cool of the evening or morning.

The hive containing the queen nursery', having a large amount of bees, is suitable to divide on the tenth day from its formation. The combs from which the brood has emerged should be changed for combs having young brood. But no more should be placed in any hive than there are bees to cover, so as to prevent a chill. Divide equally, giving a royal cell to each. The hives' are to be properly arranged, to allow egress and ingress, and placed near each other, one on the right and the other on the left of the original position ; these subdivisions are to be treated in the same manner as directed for other colonies. All colonies having young queens about to emerge and standing in the immediate vicinity of other hives, should be conspicuously marked, to enable the young queen to regain her own home on returning from her serial amorous excursions. This takes place within from seven to ten days from her birth. The marking is best done by placing a board, one end resting on the place of alighting and the other on the ground in a slanting position. .When a number of colonies are to be thus marked, let the boards be of different colors. Cloth can be used to good advantage to alternate. As soon as the queens are fertile, let these marks be removed ; this will show at a glance if any remain unfruitful.

To build up weak colonies at any time, take a sheet of mature brood from 'any hive that is full, and give to them; being sure to have all hives full of comb and stores at the close of the season.


  1. This is as late as it is safe to form them, unless there is abundant pasturage, or feeding is resorted to, in which case colonies may be formed to do well as late as the middle of July ; also, the number of colonies that should be made from a hive depends almost entirely on the amount and continuance of pasturage. For, while in one place an increase of one or two colonies is all that can be made, there are others where from five to eight can be made, and all do well.
  2. One primary divide with queen nursery formed, can be depended on to supply from four to eight embryo queens. I have had as high as fourteen in one section, and frequently nine to eleven, and as high as twenty in a hive. The number depends mainly on the proper arrangement of the comb, the age of the eggs and larvae, as well as a numerous family of bees and abundant pasturage.
  3. Sometimes it is difficult or requires too much time to find the queen among so large a mass of bees as should occupy a hive suitable for a primary division, in which case divide the combs so that about half of the brood as well as half of the bees are given to each hive. (Regard should also be had to a division of stores.) However, before adjusting the combs to their places, sections of combs should be arranged in each hive, as directed in page 264. This is necessary, as it is not known which hive the queen is in. The one she is in will not build any queen cells, while the other one will. Hence, on opening either hive after three days have elapsed, her whereabouts is readily determined.
  4. As it is sometimes difficult to find a newly built comb sufficiently large for turning the section in the same, it answers equally well to cut the apertures in old comb and insert sections of new built comb containing eggs taken from any other hive. In the spring of the year it would be necessary, in order to get new comb, to remove a sheet of the old, or a portion thereof, from the center of the hive, about ten days before making the primary division ; this would give the bees room to build, which they would do, provided they were strong and the pasturage good. The reason why new comb is best for rearing queens in is, the absence of cocoons, on which account the bees build a much larger number than they do when compelled to use the cells containing cocoons. Eggs laid by a queen one year old are better for rearing queens from than those laid by one bred the same year.
  5. The hives should be cool at the time the colonies are placed in them, and particular care taken to shield them from the rays of the sun until they have their liberty. In fact, the sun should be excluded from the hives entirely, when the temperature is above seventy-five degrees. In early spring and at times when a low temperature prevails, it is best to let the sun shine directly on the hives, which will give greater vitality and assist in developing the brood.
  6. During the season of rapid breeding, which is in the spring and early summer, bees that are in a thrifty condition and have a fertile queen, usually occupy a large proportion of their combs with a generation of brood of nearly the same age. Hence, when they emerge, the hive is in a fit condition to form colonies from as above ; while if delayed a few days later, these young bees will have marked the position of their home; consequently, if they are afterwards taken to form colonies, and left in the same apiary, they will, upon taking wing, return to the familiar spot.
  7. The objects of interchanging combs are 1st, to strengthen the colony. 2d. If the embryo queen supplied has failed to emerge, or is afterwards lost, it gives the bees the means of rearing another. 3d. The combs which would otherwise remain empty for a period of ten days, are immediately replenished with eggs, making a difference of half a generation's increase. And still another advantage gained by interchanging, is the keeping the bees in the colony as profitably employed in maturing the brood as if they were in possession of a fertile queen. Twenty-three days (counting from the time the egg is laid) is the shortest time, and thirty is the extreme limit for a queen to become fertile.