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Brood break by artificial swarm vs. pinching queen

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  • Brood break by artificial swarm vs. pinching queen

    When completing a brood break by pinching the queen, thereby keeping the phoretic mites and the emerging mites all together, do you find that the brood break is less effective as doing an artificial swarm? In the artificial swarm the phoretic mites and the mites in the capped brood are separated. Have you experienced both methods, which is more effective at mite mgmt, and why? Thanks for your advice.
    Last edited by alan; 08-19-2019, 02:25 AM.

  • #2
    The resulting brood break would have an identical result regardless of whether you killed the queen or simply removed her from the hive. In my experience, there are a few considerations.

    1) There is no need to kill the queen. Although Mel Disselkoen seems to believe that younger queens going into winter are preferred, my experience has been that it makes virtually zero difference whether the queen is 1st, 2nd, or 3rd year. The primary driving factor is colony strength going into winter. It is a tremendous waste to off a perfectly good queen.

    2) Make your summer split significantly stronger than your spring split. He says 2 frames of brood, I'd do 4. In my experience (note that I'm in KC MO) the summer dearth is far too big of an obstacle for a small split. They never build up to a decent overwintering strength and they never draw enough comb, despite feeding upwards of 5 gallons of syrup between August and September.

    3) On any scale other than hobbyist, the OTS method is not beneficial. The primary reasons - loss of brood rearing for the vast majority of the flow and too many issues recovering from queenlessness (failure of the queen to mate in the split). If you think about how many weeks your hives go without eggs during the flow in the OTS system, you realize that you're without a queen for most of May and most of July. In a traditional queen rearing system, you still don't need to make up mating nucs because you can install caged virgins into your splits and only lose about 8-9 days. I realize this cuts off the brood break thought, but i'll pick it up in point 4. This can all be done in a back yard with 4 or 5 hives no problem. What I'd do in that scenario - select your strongest colony, do an artificial swarm, 1 week later take a sharp knife and cut out all those cells (except one obviously), get one of those cheap $50 chicken egg incubators, stick those cells in the incubator so that they emerge into a queen cage with some honey in the bottom. When they emerge, make up your splits they way you would in OTS, but with the caged virgins.

    4) Brood breaks don't really make much difference. Those bees will build resistance to mites the longer you keep them treatment free. If you make splits and increase your hive count, you'll easily be able to handle the large initial losses.


    • #3
      I would never do this and I don't recommend it. I've never understood why people would pinch a perfectly good queen. Instead of wasting all that energy making a new queen, why not just split the hive?

      Seems lately I've spent a lot of time trying to refute the idea that brood breaks are necessary.
      100% Treatment-Free, 16 years.
      Medford, Oregon, USA


      • #4
        Some reading I've done recently has me questioning if we've put too much importance on the lack of "brood" in a break as somehow reducing mites, when maybe the focus should be on what type and volume of mites are on a swarm, if hardly any. Mites have been shown to prefer nurse bees over foragers, namely because they are repulsed by the geraniol in the Nasanov gland more developed in foragers. Also because the foragers have less vitellogenin (fat bodies) to parasitize. If foragers decide to swarm and leave behind mite infested brood and nurse bees, they have successfully culled an entire hive of mites from themselves, taking probably very little phoretic mites with them.

        However, when humans move nurses and brood with mites in them (via the frames) into our "new" split, we are not taking full advantage of the mite culling the way a swarm does. If the mites are too virulent and are destroying their host, the healthy portion of the host packs up to move and leaves those mites behind to overtake and die out. That balance of natural selection might be hampered when we help the mite out by moving it to it's new home, safe and snug. Any mites phoretically on the swarm have a good chance of falling off during the swarm and dying, being groomed off, and interestingly, nature has just selected for a mite that prefers adult phoresis over brood. A mite does more long term damage to a bee in the pupae stage than the adult stage.

        More and more, the reproductive abilities and genetic traits of the mite, not just the bee, have surfaced in studies. And once again, it seems apiary manipulation might be at the center of discussion. I haven't drawn any full conclusions myself yet. I'm just watching and waiting to see how it plays out.

        (Not a treatment free article, but the biology of mite reproduction):
        Kalispell, Montana Zone 4a
        Certified Master Beekeeper


        • #5
          The only reason I would do a brood break is to get more honey by doing it two weeks before the main flow. I would not kill the queen. Just put her in a small nuc. If the colony fails to raise a new queen I still have one. If not I let the nuc grow up.
          Nehawka, Nebraska. My website: en espanol: auf deutsche: em portugues: My book:
          -----"Everything works if you let it."--James "Big Boy" Medlin-----