Another ‘why did my bees swarm’ topic

Hi all from Brisbane, South East Qld,

A few weeks ago I split my hive even though there wasn’t any signs of swarming other than it was quite a full hive. I try to split before any queen cells appear as I’m in suburbia and I don’t want to annoy my neighbours plus there have been quite a few people wanting to buy my nucs.
My strategy was to allow them to re-queen naturally. A couple of weeks later I did a brood inspection and saw 7 or 8 nice queen cells so I thought beaudy, everything is on-track.
Around the time the queens were due to hatch there were 2 swarms, both of which I was unable to catch. And today, 4 days later, another big swarm which thankfully I caught.
I’ll be honest, my understanding was that when the new queens emerged, they would play a ‘survival of the fittest’ game and I’d be left with the most dominant queen.
Is anyone able to share their knowledge as to what I can do next time to avoid this?
Plus is it viable to dispatch one queen and re-combine the swarm and hive?
Best regards all.

Hi @RichieRumPirate,

Where did you put the split? I found when I put the old queen in a hive in a new spot, and left the split where the original hive was, the virgin queen split ended up swarming with a virgin queen. There were lots of virgin queens running around in the hive. I caused the thing I was trying to prevent. I ended up doing a Taranov split on the split, to make sure it didn’t swarm again.

Thanks Dan. The split went to my other site 15 mins drive away so should be plenty.

If you have more than one queen cell in the split, my understanding is that they can swarm with one of the virgin queens if the hive is strong enough. Some advocate leaving just one queen cell to avoid this, but there are different opinions.

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Righto, well always learning as they say. Another interesting new fact for me was that they swarmed at dawn.

@Dan2 has made some helpful comments. There are a couple of lengthy, but very good articles in document library of (There are Queen Cells in My Hive and Making Increase), which should address most of your questions. I would post links, but the server is down at the moment.

Thanks Dawn. I’ll enjoy reading that. In a lot of my other splits I’ve re-queened with a fertilised queen purchased locally and that seems to be a method with less fuss. Although I like the natural method because the idea of splitting is to slow the little beggars down. Nevertheless knowledge is power so I’ll keep working on it.
Cheers all.

Hi Richie, all of my queens come from splits, they make their own emergency queens. I let them fight it out. I got my bees to make lots of queens this season. Only two of the splits issued swarms that I know of. The vast majority of the splits go to plan. There will always be the exception.

A swarm that I picked up 2 weeks ago issued at 8.30am., just as the bloke was going to work.

PS, after re-reading your story, I got to wondering how strong the split was, to be able to issue 2 swarms, followed by the big one. Maybe your original hive swarmed.

My splits only consist of 4-5 frames. Also I got to thinking that if you took a split/nuc from a strong hive, if you replace the frames with fresh foundation & don’t checkerboard them, that can trigger a colony to swarm, in certain circumstances.

Luckily @JeffH is professional fisherman, so that was just lunchtime for him. :smile:

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Sadly it’s was, not is.

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Once you were, you always are! :blush:

Same with doctoring, veterinarying, piloting, soldiering, nursing, engineering, beekeeping etc… It never really leaves your character. :wink:

You are right Dawn, even politicians :slight_smile:

Wilma, for sure, forever a nurse.

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I second that. Airline pilots sleep when sleep is available.
So from an 8 frame brood box I take 4 frames for the nuc and checker in 4 new frames with wax foundation into the donor hive just as you taught me Jeff. I always shake a few bees into the nuc box too. Sometimes I move the queen, sometimes not. Maybe I just need to make sure I take as many bees as possible (within reason) to really ensure the hive is weakened properly. Weirdly I nearly enjoy making splits as much as harvesting honey. Maybe because instead of taking honey from them, by splitting them I’m helping their natural urge and generally helping someone into their new hobby.
Donor hive is very sparse for bees now. Lucky I have other hives just in case I need to help them along.

I read widely about splitting before doing it, but didn’t glean from my readings that the split might swarm with one (or more) of the virgin queens from the emergency cells. I personally think that authors of books/articles about splitting might be remiss in this respect, even though as Jeff says, it is unusual. My mistake was leaving the split in the original position, but you @RichieRumPirate didn’t do that, so it just goes to show there is a risk there. I try and warn people about it on the forum when I get a chance.

All wise words from everyone. Just so I’m clear, it was the original (donor) hive that swarmed multiple times afterwards. :grin:

Hi Jeff,

I’m wondering if you can you pin the swarming splits down to anything in particular that you did or didn’t do on the case of those two splits? Thanks

No Dan, there’s nothing I can pin down.

I put it down to genetics. I always think of the fact that swarming is how they say that bees reproduce.

With that in mind, maybe a colony that wants to swarm more often are simply sexier bees than the ones that don’t swarm so often.


Bees have a nifty trick if you leave more than one queen cell and the colony is strong. It takes 3/4 days before a virgin queen is ready to fly so queen cell production is staggered. If you are dealing with emergency cells after a split, because they are the same age bees will allow one new queen to emerge but imprison the others till the first one is ready to fly.


So (thinking back to last Spring when I split a hive and still had swarms from the original) when adding new frames to the original hive, should you checkerboard them between the remaining frames to minimise the chance that they will swarm anyway? Pretty sure I did not do that. I took the queen with the split in late winter and it built up beautifully. The original stayed in place and requeened then swarmed twice ( possibly three times) and went queenless. I was able to give it frames of brood until it came good but would like to avoid that in future if possible. I’ve learned something for next Spring.


Hi Cathie, I found once that after I put 3 frames of foundation in the middle of a single brood box after taking a nuc out to prevent swarming, they swarmed anyway. They were not making any preparations to swarm at the time of me taking the nuc out.

At the time I figured that the 3 frames of foundation segregated the brood, leaving the queen on one side. I figured that the bees on the other side made emergency queen cells because they thought the hive was queenless. Then I figured the rest of the colony decided that it was swarm cells, so they made more & swarmed.

That was all speculation on my part, since then I have always checkerboarded frames with foundation. I will put frames with foundation together on the side, but not in the middle where it segregates the brood.

I figured that the queen mustn’t venture past that first frame of foundation if it is followed by another one.

That must have been over 25 years ago when that happened.

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