Rob_Raabe_nest_ABOL_003.jpgWhat is eduction?

Eduction is the process where bees from an active hive are forced to fly through an empty hive to access the outside.

How are new hives established?

Our current knowledge indicates that some workers from a strong colony of stingless bees will scout around for a suitable nesting site.

This they clean up and begin to install structure including some honey and pollen pots. Back in the mother hive young queens are regularly hatching out of the larger cells on the edge of the brood comb. We know from their presence when we are splitting or transferring hives from logs etc that they are allowed to remain in the hive for a certain period of time.

From Brazilian studies we know that some of their stingless bee ‘princesses’ are imprisoned in empty honeypots or constrained within a cordon of worker bees until they are either required to replace the existing queen or to start a new colony. I suspect the constraint by a cordon of workers scenario applies to our young queens. If they are not required for either of the duties mentioned then they presumably get the chop.  

If a strong parent colony has partly provisioned another homesite and if a particular young unmated queen has the right stuff (Brazilian studies indicate that queens must really demonstrate a dominance to be successful) then she is allowed to leave the parent hive, go on a mating flight and with an entourage (perhaps a swarm) of worker bees, set up a new colony. Our current knowledge indicates that the old hive provides support until the new colony is able to survive on its own.

Given that it will be 6 or more weeks before newly laid brood begins to hatch out it seems reasonable to assume that the parent hive would at least have to provide replacement workers during this period. How to educt a hive Connecting an empty hive in front of a really strong parent hive encourages the bees to construct honey and pollen pots inside – although this may not happen immediately. Whether they do this because they just need more space for honey or pollen or whether they do this because the placement of suitable new quarters so close at hand triggers the propagation instinct is currently unknown. However, often a young queen is allowed to leave, mate and return to the new hive to start her own colony.

How do you know when an eduction is working?

You need to be able to look inside your new box. An observation panel is best, but a removable lid is the second best option although it causes much more disturbance for the bees. The reason you need to be able to inspect progress is because at some time a young queen will emerge from the old colony, traverse the new box to fly out on her mating flight. When she returns to the new hive she usually starts to lay fairly promptly and a brood mass slowly forms. You have to be in a position to observe this step before it progresses too far.
Oops, we now have 2 colonies and one exit

You now have two laying queens within the one connected system. The tension must be relieved between the two connected colonies by cutting a small hole in the tubing between the two hives as near as practicable to the parent hive (the tree in your case). Bees from the parent colony will continue to support the hive in front, but many will simply use the new entrance. If this step is not taken my experience has been that the new queen will be killed, her brood will hatch out and disappear and people will claim the process just never works for them.
I now have placed a hole in the tube, what now?

The hole in the tubing should take care of the 2 Queens in connected hives issue, but if we remove the new hive with its tiny amount of new brood we also remove the support from the parent colony. It is unlikely to survive on its own. Now that the hole is done the hives are left connected usually for months (sometimes for a year or more if I’m particularly slack). T. carbonaria in particular will eventually build a solid wall in the tube, usually just beyond the hole, thereby separating mother and daughter colony themselves. I usually wait for this to happen and I can then be confident that the young colony is well and truly up and running. But as I indicated above I will often leave the colonies either hooked together, or separated but not moved, for months after the bees have walled themselves off. I have never had any problem with a mother and daughter colony fighting despite their close proximity – probably because they have similar nest scents.
Pro tips for eduction

Select a parent hive that is fairly bursting with bees and structure (in other words is ready to propagate)

Pick the right time of the year to hook up the new hive (connection can be done prior to or even during winter, but don’t expect much action until spring or later, which is when the bees are active and construct the most queen cells

Maintain the security of the connection between the old hive and new. If the bees can escape without travelling through the hive in front before brood is established in the new hive then there is little chance eduction will be successful.

Acceptability of the new hive. A hive that is not attractive to the bees because it smells of paint or glue residues or because the timber used is aromatic may delay acceptance for some considerable time. Honey and pollen availability.

Eduction is more likely to be successful during times of abundance for obvious reasons. If the bees are bringing in lots of nectar and pollen it is most likely they will chose to use the new hive for storage which will accelerate the eduction process.  

Thanks to Frank Adcock for this slide