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FORCED swarming is the driving out of a large proportion of the bees from the mother hive into an empty one, and allowing them to fill it with new comb.


The driving is done by inverting the old hive and setting an empty one, of the same size, on the top of it (as inverted) ; the lower hive is then to be jarred by striking the sides rapidly with light sticks for ten or fifteen minutes, which causes the bees to ascend into the top box, or hive. When enough to compose the swarm are out of the old hive, it should be placed on the original stand for a few minutes, to allow the bees that have returned from the fields to enter it ; it is then to be placed on a distant stand, and the hive containing the forced swarm placed where the old one stood ; they are then given their liberty, and are expected to quickly fill the new habitation, into which they are thus driven.


If this forcing operation is performed when the hive is about to swarm, it will generally succeed ; for, at this time, a large proportion of the brood is sealed up ; the hive being also well stored with provisions, leaves but little work to be done until the young queen enters upon her duties. By that time, all the brood (progeny of the previous queen) will have emerged, and will be of age to assume the duties of nurses, etc., of the young progeny. The bees composing the forced swarm being removed at this time, will be well provided with wax, and if pasturage is abundant, will thrive equally as well as a natural swarm.

But where a forced swarm is made from a hive not prepared to swarm, and having much unsealed brood, the success will be very uncertain, both as regards the old hive and driven swarm ; for the young larvae receive, as soon as hatched, a minute supply of food, and as they grow, the quantity is increased so as to exactly supply their wants. This food is prepared by the nurses, and supplied at short intervals until they are sealed. But if this supply is interrupted, even for a short time, the young will die from starvation ; or if left without the influence of the hovering bees, they are very liable to perish from exposure.

A further objection to this plan is the interruption and derangement of the division of labor. There is always a limited number of bees secreting wax in every hive when breeding, at any season of the year ; (see Note on Signs, etc., Chapter xv) and as the demand for wax with which to seal over the brood increases, so too the supply is increased ; but as it requires the consumption of a large amount of honey to produce it, only an amount exactly corresponding to their immediate wants is ever produced.

As soon, however, as a surplus of honey is afforded by the flowers, there is a greatly increased demand for wax, with which to repair their honey receptacles, seal them over when full, and construct new ones. Consequently, increased numbers of bees devote themselves to its production ; but, as it requires probably from three to six days (instead of twentyfour hours, as is generally alleged) after a bee commences to feed, for the purpose of secreting wax, that period must elapse without an adequate supply. Now, if a swarm is driven when only enough wax is being produced to seal the brood, the producers, remaining quiet within the hive, will most likely be driven out with the swarm ; thus leaving the parent hive without an adequate supply at a time when their wants are most pressing.

It is true that the driven swarm needs all the wax, and more too, but cannot produce it in sufficient quantities to meet their wants until a certain period of time elapses, and then only by having an abundance of food ; consequently, they either work to great disadvantage, or remain comparatively idle during that time ; which frequently discourages, and causes them to entirely abandon their hive.


  1. The plan of forcing swarms was probably first practiced by the German apiarists, and has long been known.