How to use the famous Demaree method of swarm control

A swarm in a tree. Absconding and swarming are very different.

The Demaree method of swarm control was first published in the late 1800s and has evolved since. When using the Demaree method, the beekeeper separates the queen (and flying bees) from most of the brood (and nurse bees) by manipulating the frames and using a queen excluder.

The result is a hive with little congestion and lots of room for the queen to lay. In essence, the colony “believes” it has already swarmed.

Basic steps for using the Demaree method

  1. Remove the hive from the hive stand, leaving only the screened bottom board and slatted rack (if you are using one).
  2. Above the bottom board and optional slatted rack, place a brood box filled with empty drawn comb.
  3. Remove the center two frames of drawn comb and set aside.
  4. Go back to the active brood boxes and find the queen.
  5. Place the queen and two frames of sealed brood in the center of the new brood box.
  6. Place a queen excluder above this box.
  7. Above the queen excluder, place one or more empty honey supers (with frames) and then the original brood box where you found the queen. Push the brood nest together in the center and put the two empty drawn frames (from step 3) on either end of the box.
  8. Add your inner cover and telescoping lid.
  9. After one week, go through the top brood box and remove any swarm cells.
  10. If necessary, the entire procedure may be repeated after 9 or 10 days.

The set-up

From top to bottom, your hive will look like this:

Inner cover
Brood box with sealed and unsealed brood
Honey super
Honey super
Queen excluder
Brood box with drawn frames, 2 frames sealed brood, and queen
Hive stand with bottom board and slatted rack

What happens inside

Now that you have the hive set up, this is what happens:

  • The nurse bees stay with the brood and care for it.
  • The field force continues to forage for honey and pollen.
  • The queen continues to lay eggs and has lots of places to do so.

This situation is much like a hive that has already swarmed. The major difference is that both parts are in the same box. However,

  • As soon as the queen scent decreases in the top box, the bees will try to raise a queen from young larvae.
  • You may destroy these cells or remove them to a nuc.
  • After the brood hatches, the brood cells will be backfilled with honey.
  • In the end, the hive will not have swarmed, so it will contain lots of bees and lots of honey.
  • The growing hive may once again develop the urge to swarm, which is why a second Demaree is often needed.

Good control but labor intensive

The Demaree method can be quite effective at swarm control, but as you can see, it is quite labor intensive. It involves a lot of manipulation, good opportunities to lose or damage your queen, and a lot of heavy lifting. On the other hand, not only can you prevent swarming, but you can obtain some queen cells in the process.One more important point: When you set up the Demaree hive, be sure to remove any swarm cells that are already present. Any cell not removed may hatch and cause a problem within the hive.

Honey Bee Suite

The Demarree method can be used to control swarming.
The Demarree method can be used to control swarming. Image by Kloentaler on Pixabay


    • I was talking to a local beekeeper on Friday about this method of swarm control. He said it’s simply a matter of separating swarm cells from the queen by placing the frames with swarm cells in a deep over the regular brood chamber with a excluder in between. He didn’t say anything about destroying swarm cells or adding honey supers. Everyone seems to have their own ideas about how things are done. Thanks for the clarification and explaining how it works.

    • This sounds dangerous in colder climates. Where will the cluster form if the temperature drops? Is there a risk of freezing the queen or the brood?

      • I agree this is a dangerous maneuver if there is a severe temperature drop. In cold conditions there might not be enough bees to adequately cover both the top box and the lower box. I get the impression (completely unscientific, just a hunch) that the DeMaree method is not as popular as it used to be and I think this is one of the reasons. The other reason is that it’s so invasive to the hive–something I believe is falling out of favor. Personally, I stay away from this method because I live in an area with erratic and unpredictable temperature fluctuations and I like to stay out of the brood nest when possible.

    • So Rusty,

      What is your preference to prevent swarming once you have discovered swarm cells (queen cells) within a colony?

      I have a colony that has two deeps and a medium super of capped honey/sugar syrup on it. I am planning to try the checkerboard method with this colony for two reasons: This queen will be 2 years old in July and swarmed last year due to sufficient resources and I want the bees to draw out additional medium foundation ASAP to use for splits/honey supers.

      So in the spring I plan to have four boxes starting from bottom to top with two deeps (existing brood boxes) followed by the two medium supers with 10 frames of capped comb and 10 frames of foundation being checkerboarded. I may remove one deep if they have not started laying into it in the spring and save the empty deep foundation for other things.

      Should this work?


      • Jeff,

        Your set-up sounds good. I think it should work. As for preventing a swarm after swarm cells are already built? That is tough. At that point, I usually just split the hive and put the old queen in the new hive so it feels (to them) like they’ve already swarmed. I leave the swarm cells in the old hive so they can raise a new queen. Later on in the year, you can always recombine them if you want a big hive going into winter. See “How to make a swarm-control split.”

    • Hey Rusty,

      So can I use the demaree method to make a 2 queen stack? If there is an indication that the colony is going to swarm Can I keep the queen below and move some swarm cells above and let the virgin(s) mate with the only the only thing separting the virgin queen from the original laying queen being a queen excluder. THe hope is the daughter queen workers would not have an issue with the orginal queen while there is a honey flow. So the arrangement would look like:

      Honey Super
      Single Deep (Swarm cells)
      Queen excluder
      Honey Super
      Honey Super
      Double Deep with orginal queen and some capped brood and enmpty comb.
      Bottom board

      Then as the honey flow subsides in the fall recombine the colony and remove the old queen so there is a young queen going into the winter? As mentioned above the heat from the lower colony keeps the new colony above warm until it gets rocking.

      Any thoughts?

      Thanks Rusty

      • Jeff,

        The only thing I would do differently is use a double screen board instead of the queen excluder. The workers will fight because they can walk right through the excluder. I’ve run successful two-queen hives, but always with a double-screen board between them.

    • Silly question: is there drawn comb in the empty super directly above the queen excluder or is it just an empty super to create vertical space between the queen and the majority of the other bees?

      I have a hive built from a five-frame nuc I got the last week of April. I get into it about every 2 weeks because of poor weather/cool conditions in Eugene Or. I added a 2nd brood box over the 1st 2 weeks ago. Checked it yesterday when we noticed some aborted bees on the landing board and found 4 swarm cells on the middle frame, hanging from the bottom, which are sealed. There is minimal development with no brood in the 2nd brood box.

      My bee keeping neighbor recommends inverting the boxes (most populated on top) with 2 frames of capped brood placed in the 2nd/mostly empty brood box (now
      on bottom) so the bees are forced through it when accessing the hive.

      I thought bees tended to build up? What do u think? Why are my new bees (plenty of capped brood, pollen, honey) building swarm cells?

    • Over lunch today, I checked on my busiest hive and found several of the queen cups along the bottom of the top deep frames were occupied by larvae languishing in royal jelly baths. Not wanting to lose bees to a swarm, and not being able to take more time and do it later due to leaving this afternoon for 4 days, I quickly set up another stand about 30′ away and moved the hive there. I then set up a new bottom board, deep (filled with partially drawn comb), inner, & outer cover in the original location, and then moved the queen and the frame she was on to this new little hive. The workers who were out flying were pouring into the new little hive (as it occupies the same stand they are accustomed to using), and I *think* the nurse bees in the the original (now relocated) hive will go ahead and raise up a new queen. This sounds logical, right? I looked for something similar (albeit very hurriedly) on your website over lunch, but didn’t see this particular method. I guess I’ll see in a week or two if it worked. (As an aside, nearly every entry in my bee journal ends with some variation of the sentence “So we’ll see.” Every trip through the hives, no matter how concrete my plan, seems to zing something unexpected my way.)

      • Sarah,

        As I say in my section on splits, there are as many different variations on the split as their are beekeepers. Everything you did makes perfect sense and there is no reason it shouldn’t work. Let us know.

    • Hi Rusty,

      Thanks for a clear and helpful description of this method. I have two hives and would prefer to keep it this way for now (not looking to make increase).

      After the Q cells have been removed and brood emerges, I am still unclear about when/whether one can reunite the two brood boxes with the supers above the Q excluder.

    • Used this technique for swarming management on two boomers in early May. They were already double deep hives, and I was watching them for signs of impending swarming when I noticed queen cells being charged with eggs, one had a small larva. I put one frame of mainly sealed brood (did have some open and some eggs) with no queen cells on it in the new box of drawn comb at the bottom. Excluder on top of that, a couple of medium supers, another excluder, and the original two brood boxes on top. Seven days later I pulled them both apart to look for queen cells in the upper brood boxes and to assess what had happened in the new brood box at the bottom where the queen was. In both hives, I could see evidence of queen cells that had been largely completed but then were torn down and were now empty in the upper boxes. The new brood boxes at the bottom were almost fully laid-up by the queens and had no queen cells. These boxes were just seething with bees taking care of all that young brood. At 10 days after doing the first manipulations, I returned the hives to their original configurations to give the queen more room, condensing the two original brood boxes that had been on top into one. I gave a few frames with sealed brood or stores to other colonies.

      This worked like a charm for me and it’s a couple weeks or less to blackberries blooming, so I expect these colonies will be in great shape for that.

      The reason I used the upper excluder in the stack was to keep the dumb drones out of the supers where I’ve found they will go to die on top of the lower excluder. The upper boxes had quite a bit of drone brood and also had an entrance of their own to use.

    • Thanks Rusty! Once again I appreciate your clear and concise description of basic practices. I’m a 3rd year beekeeper and still stumbling around.

      The Demaree sounds promising as it won’t lead to an increase in hive numbers. However, for me finding the queen is a pretty random occurrence. Any other technique that might help me artificially “swarm” the colony without having to find the queen and without leading to a colony increase?

      • John,

        You can always split a colony and then wait for swarm season to be over and then recombine the two halves. It’s a lot of work, but the increase in the number of colonies will be temporary.

        Since you will need to find a queen for recombining, it might be best to learn to find her. It’s a skill every beekeeper needs, so it’s worth spending some practice time.

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