Wing clipping of the queen bee - time to stop

Conventional beekeepers often cut one of the wings of a mated queen bee. The reason? To attempt to control swarming. It allows the beekeeper to split the colony artificially, creating two or more hives using the developing virgin queens that will soon emerge.

The effect? At swarm time the clipped queen will be jostled and pushed out of the hive by the bees whose natural instinct to swarm is in full flow. Unable to fly, she is likely to fall to the ground, followed by the swarm, she is exposed to the elements and predators and often unable to return. If the queen can return, she will be killed by the emerging virgin queens, and the hive will swarm anyway.
There can be no greater stress for the bees in the initial swarm than to find themselves queen-less as they proceed into the air.  They may return to the hive seeking their queen, but sometimes they cluster nearby and fall in clumps to the ground as they weaken and die waiting for her to join them.

A true prime swarm has been shaped over millennia to contain a perfect balance of bees - young wax making bees, older foragers, guards, nurse bees, a mated queen – and is programmed to survive and start building a new colony with nothing but three days of stores. Weak swarms will die, the strong will survive.

Swarming is a natural and vital part of bee health. They can leave unsuitable or diseased hives, have a break in the brood cycle, and pioneer new hives. They leave behind an emerging new queen who will go on her mating flight, ensuring that the genetic pool is kept wide.

The beekeeper has never mastered the essential elements of the true swarm. There is no perfect balance. Everything is artificial and the Essential Bee spirit is weakened. Like a poor facsimile, every copy gets worse over time.

It's time to marvel at the perfection of bee reproduction and celebrate swarming as the magnificent and essential process that nature intended.

UPDATE: Beowulf Cooper notes in his inspiring book  "The Honeybees of the British Isles" that dark queens often perform a spring flight. I have witnessed this myself last year with a light queen. For this reason alone he finds it hard to recommend wing clipping as it is a great risk to the colony. I recommend his book for anybody interested in the British dark bee.

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