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A question for the brains trust - a bit urgent


Hi everyone
We have been hoping to catch a swarm to get our Flow Hive started, and the time is now right. Too right in fact.

Yesterday my neighbour had bees coming and going from under his eaves and asked me for help. The best I could manage was to put a bit of lemongrass essential oil into my still bee-less brood box and leave it near where they were coming and going in the hope they would decide the box was a better option than the cavity they’d found. There wasn’t all that much activity and not really a lot of bees, maybe 50 or so.

By the late afternoon there was zero bee activity in the box, and as they had visitors coming in a day or two he decided he’d get them “removed” by the pest guy in the morning, so I took the box back home not wanting it in the vicinity of whatever that involves… :frowning: I plonked it in my covered clothesline/potting area on my way through and forgot to move it to it’s forever home before dark.

This morning I found a bit of activity, maybe 50 or so bees were moving in and out of the box. This afternoon there’s a LOT of activity. It’s now almost 4 pm (sunset is in two hours’ time) and I intend to close the entrance once they’re all in and move it (about 50 metres) to where it belongs. I have three questions:

Will this confuse the bees when they come out in the morning?
Is there something I need to do to make sure they re-orientate to the new position?
Also, the cotton-bud with the lemongrass oil is still inside the hive, do I need to take it out?

Any advice tonight will be greatly appreciated. Sorry if this has been covered already, I have two dogs I now must walk and can’t sit here searching for answers.
Yay, finally getting going with the Flow HIve! :grin:


Hi, are you sure there is a swarm in your box? Might be useful in the morning to open the lid and see how many bees you have in there. Check to see if the queen is with them, sometimes you can get false swarms where the bees congregate but the queen hasn’t followed.
If you move the hive, make sure you place some obstacles in front of the entrance to help the bees re-orientate, otherwise a bunch could end up back at the original spot.
I would leave the lemongrass unless its easy to pull out.


Thanks Rodderick. Yeah, I thought about the lemongrass thing after I’d posted, I won’t be able to move that until I do an inspection in there anyway, in about a week??
I’ve just been out there again and there really is a lot of activity. I don’t know for sure if it is a swarm, but in comparison to the top bar hive there’s almost as much going on in the Flow brood box as there is in the definitely-got-a-queen top bar.

Talk about doing things back to front. A month ago we took the Flow brood box out to a property to attempt a cut out. A colony of bees had been living in what was pretty much an open wooden box on the ground for over a year - six months ago the owner had knocked it over in the hope they would go away. Didn’t work, they just stayed on in what was a messy, open hive. The cut out was a failure, we put as much comb as we could inside rubber bands in the Flow brood box frames, but as fast as we put them in, the bees were flying out again. We must have missed the queen.

They ended up swarming on a nearby branch and we shook them off into the little top bar nuc my very clever other half had made and brought along “just in case we need it”. They loved it. We came back at sunset the next day and brought them home. It is a busy hive that is going really well, they’ve built comb on 16 bars already. It just meant we still had nothing in the Flow hive, which is what we wanted to get started on first. Ho hum, plan B and all that.

I have a feeling this might be it. It’s now ten minutes until sunset, I’m going to get back out there. Half an hour ago there was loads of bees coming and going. Fingers crossed there is a queen in there.

Would there be so much going on if there wasn’t a queen? Serious question, I’m a newbee with a lot to learn and appreciate any and all feedback.


Can you take a pic, tomorrow, now?


Hi Kirsten,
It is too dark now to take a pic tonight, but will definitely post one here in the morning.

The box isn’t humming as loudly as I’d expect if there were loads of bees in there, although it is the warmest night we’ve had in ages and we’re expecting rain, so maybe that’s got something to do with it? (Have just raced out and put my ear against the top bar hive for comparison, it’s humming but maybe not as frantically as it has on the cold, i.e, 5 to 7 degrees Celsius nights).

I did move it (the Flow brood box) to where it is supposed to be though, put the roof on and placed a leafy branch across the opening so they can still get in and out, but with obstacles as per Roderick’s advice. Exciting stuff, looking forward to seeing what the morning brings. This will be an accidental swarm if it actually is one.

Another question: if it isn’t a swarm with a queen, what are these bees doing??


Avoid disturbing the bees too much until they have built comb and are settled in. Do you have starter strip frames and or foundation in the box? If so, then the bees will have plenty to work with.

I’m not sure about moving the box the 50 metres to its permanent location. Probably OK to move them on the first night or before they start orienting in the morning. The usual rule for moving a hive is less than 3 feet or more than 3 miles. However a newly established colony will not nave settled into its location for a day or so.

From the number of bees you appear to be dealing with a secondary swarm. Its chances may be precarious at best.

Good luck with your beekeeping.

It’s still Winter here in Australia so things are still relatively quiet. The last time I checked my largest colony, I found capped supersedure cells. I split off two nucs and gave each one a couple of the queen cells. I left the main colony strong and will check it as soon as the weather improves. The queens are likely to have emerged by now.


Science master, I’m a new beekeeper and live in southern Victoria where it is presently very cold. I’m wondering when you last looked at your hive to discover those cells? When would you suggest is a good time to do the first inspection post winter in this area of Australia? I have an 8 frame hive with 2 flow frames in the honey super, but note no activity when I peek through the side window.
Many thanks.


I am in Sydney and won’t be opening my hives for another few weeks yet, if you are in southern Victoria then it may be longer. Possibly mid September. Wait until the day time temp is consistently above 20C before exposing the brood to the open air.


Thanks Rodderick. It’s sunny here today and the bees are out and about which is great to see.
I just slid out the white cor flute base ( which is below the screened bottom board of my Flowhive ) and noticed brown grainy material. Do you have any idea of what that could be? I’m very new to this!


Should be that browny material is the chewed brood cappings and a lighter brown/grey is the wax cappings of their honey stores.


Many thanks. Great info.


Here in Mullumbimby, Northern NSW, our winters are relatively mild and bees are active most of the time. In Winter, I try and only open hives on mild, sunny days.

I needed to inspect my hives to prepare for some queen cells I will be buying in a few weeks. I will be preparing queenless splits and the first step is to move brood into the top boxes.

The last few days have been wet and cooler so I’m leaving the girls alone. My plan was to confine the queen to the bottom box 4 days before making up queenless nucs for the purchased queen cells. These nucs are prepared the day before I collect the cells.

When I saw the capped supersedure queen cells I decided to take action immediately. I had no idea when the virgin queens would start to emerge. I assembled two mating nucs, each with a frame of brood and a frame of honey and pollen. I cut queen cells out and in each nuc, put two cells in little cavities I made towards the top of a frame. I put the frames back into the nuc boxes, with the newly installed queen cells face the second loaded frame. This way, the cells are where the bees are most likely to cluster.

The nuc boxes I use hold five frames and I added frames of drawn comb to fill the space. The “loaded” frames are in the middle of each box.


Hiya sciencemaster, I’ve not heard of purchasing queen cells. Why not a mated queen? I wouldn’t have thought many colonies would be producing drones at this time of year by t having said that I have read of swarms lately over that way.


Three reasons for buying in Queen cells.

  1. Price. Queen cells are about a quarter the price of mated queens.

  2. Genetics. Buying in queen cells introduces new genetics to mix with the local drone population. My strongest hive is producing plenty of drones but I fear they will be inbreeding with the supersedure queens I have coming on now.

  3. Convenience. I need a queenless colony for a mated queen and I need a queenless nuc for a queen cell. I get more colonies when I split queenless nucs off a strong hive. If I can get them going now, they will be strongly building by Spring.


I am not a seasoned bee keeper by any definition, but here is what I have experienced in my limited 2 months of having a flow hive.

I had a neighbor with bees under his eves – maybe 500-1000 total. They had constructed 6 combs about 3x3 to 9x12 inches.

  1. Dressed in full battle gear ….
  2. Smoked the combs and then I cut the comb off my neighbor’s eve and moved them into my brood box, using rubber bands to put them into the empty frames. Just before I put them in the box, I sprayed them with sugar water to make them fat and happy – and busy while I got the other combs.
  3. I left my brood box near the eve for 3 days to make sure the bees were happy with the new home. I wanted to make sure the queen’s scent was near by to make them re-home.
  4. On the 4 evening just as the sunset, I smoked the hive, plugged the entrance and moved it some 100 years to my back yard.
  5. In the AM about 2 hours after sunrise I opened the front entrance and put a bunch of dry grass and twigs in front of the entrance to cause the bees to re-orient when they came out. I faced the hive entrance east as I read it would be better…
  6. For the next 3 days I scraped/brushed bees from the eves into a large plastic jar in early morning (they clumped up in the night) and then moved them to the hive box. I then sprayed sugar-water (1:2) all over the bees in the jar and dumped them into the hive. After about 3 days, no more clumping they were all home in the hive.
  7. Now at 6 weeks I have new comb and worker bees flying all – I was amazed it worked.

That was my first bee capture and it was fun. I have video and when I clean it up I will post.


Can’t figure out how you went 100 years in 6 weeks???:grinning:


Thanks for keeping this thread going folks. We had a a power outage all day yesterday so I couldn’t get on here to update. Not that it mattered too much, when I checked the box in the morning there wasn’t a bee in sight. I lifted the lid and double checked…nothing, they’d all up and left.

So, what was that all about? What causes and what happens to those “false” and “secondary” swarms @Rodderick and @sciencemaster mentioned?

It is swarm season here now: I saw one while driving through a neigbouring town a few days ago; I’ve been told of two others in different locations and then there was what I thought was a done deal on Wednesday, so I’m confident we’ll end up with one sometime soon and can get the Flow Hive started.

Haha @Rulfus, I spotted that too[quote=“TLS, post:15, topic:8085”]
…I smoked the hive, plugged the entrance and moved it some 100 years to my back yard.

Well done @TLS. Your cutout went a lot better than ours, although with the same results. In hindsight we didn’t stand a chance with the mess we were starting with, it definitely wasn’t lovely hanging comb, more like a kaleidoscope of munted comb that had literally been tumbled about inside a broken old box. It was a good lesson though. I feel bad to have ruined their already wreck of a home, but can say their new one is far more salubrious and offers a much better variety of pollen and nectar sources. They seem happy.


When bees swarm, they will bivouac in a location until they find somewhere that suits them. If they don’t like your setup, they will move somewhere else. Building comb shows the bees are settling into a hive they have found acceptable.


Funny buggers aren’t they, they seemed to like the box a lot when it was in the clothesline area. After moving them they’d have woken to the warmth of the sun lighting up their day from the moment it peeked over the horizon, the hum of the top-bar hive some 30 or so metres away, the heady scent of nearby grevilleas, hakeas, waxes, and banksias oozing nectar and laden with pollen. What’s not to like??

Seriously though, was it possibly the lemongrass oil bait that sent them packing? As per my YouTube diploma I only put two or three drops onto a cotton bud and used it to dab a small amount onto a couple of frames, and then left the cotton bud in there wrapped inside a bit of cling wrap.


Bees are wild animals. The best we ever do is manage them. Controlling them is something else entirely.

Tomorrow when I work with my strong hive I could find half of them gone. I’ve been treating their clusters of queen cells as supersedure cells but it’s possible they were swarm cells. They weren’t crowded and it’s very early in the season for swarming but I don’t get to make these decisions, the bees do.