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Are my bees ready to swarm? Pictures!

Hi Everyone

So this morning, bees in my flow hive swarmed in only about three to four weeks of installing them from a nuc. The question is, is my other hive ready to swarm? I can see a few bees gathered at the entrance. Upon inspection, there are no queen cells…

Your help would be appreciated :slightly_smiling_face: Pictures attached.

Just to add that I’m in the UK.

That is a normal amount of bees on the landing board; do you have an entrance reducer on? If so, take it out. That is more for winter than summertime.

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Yes, I’m using an entrance reducer. I’m still at the apiary so will take it off momentarily. I used the entrance reducer initially as they were installed from a nuc but have since increased in number.

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I can’t tell from the photo but are those two deep boxes or is the top one a modified box to fit the flow frames? the top part just under the roof looks like it has the notch and different color wood of a flow box but not the scalloped cutout for the flow frames (and both should be at the back if that were true).

closer look, it looks like a shim of some sort. Are you feeding? Why do you have the shim on if not?

The photo shows a 10 frame Langstroth hive with a super I placed on top yesterday. Yes, I’m feeding from a shallow feeder. Please see the flow hive that’s next to the green Langstroth.


A. Great Flow tower!
B. Love your stands
C. Did the entire hive leave the Flow Hive, or just a split (do you have bees in there?). Any pics of the inside of the Flow brood situation would be helpful.
D. For your regular Lang hive- if you are having similar weather to me (I’m in Ontario Canada) we have the flow of nectar happening right now so there isn’t a need to supplement with feed-- you don’t want to feed syrup when you are trying to get honey stores so you might consider removing the feeder.

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Thanks @Tim_Purdie!

Not all the bees swarmed from the Flow Hive, thankfully. A guesstimate would be around half are left but it is difficult to know for sure. I had inspected the hive before sending the photos so couldn’t send pictures of the inside looks like.

There were a number of queen cells, which I destroyed bar one (rightly or wrongly).

There was brood in all stages with good nectar and stores around.

As I only put the super with flow frames on yesterday, there was little to no activity there.

The Langsroth hive had the queen present, no queen cells, lots of bees on the super I placed yesterday, which was encouraging compared to the flow hive. No queen cells.

The only concern that makes me think they are thinking of swarming was the amount of bees at the entrance. I removed the entrance reducer as advised and the picture below shows the situation.

Would appreciate your thoughts.

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A swarm is something you can’t mistake-- the original queen takes 60% of the colony with her and they all fly out at what looks like 80km speed with a roaring woosh sound. The picture looks more like the are happy to have airflow moving into the box and are just getting reoriented to a wider entrance. In the warmer days- and it looks sunny there - you will find a lot of bees hanging out on the landing board and the box like in your picture. Sometimes it can look like they are ill as they move back and forth repetitively-- that is called washboarding, its not an illness, but no-one really knows why they do it. Some say its hygienic cleaning of their entrance area, others say its that the bees don’t have a job to do inside. In my experience this isn’t a trouble sign. If you see them rapidly pouring out then that would be the beginning of swarming. By your description of no queen cells in the hive and that they have lots of room I think you are just fine but I understand why you would be worried. @Peter48 may have answers too as he has decades of beekeeping experience more than me.

I appreciate the advice @Tim_Purdie.

As for the Flow hive, I suppose I can either let the new queen emerge or buy a new queen? They are still in one brood box at the moment with the super on. The third box is an empty box housing a feeder.

If you had queen cell(s) in the flow I would expect that she will emerge soon and you will be queen right in short order. If you want certainty of course you could buy a queen and remove the cells for 24 hours before you install the new queen.

I have just ordered a new queen :speak_no_evil: after reading on this forum that a hive could have multiple swarms after the first.

The new queen will arrive tomorrow or the day after (latest). Will head back to the site tomorrow to remove the remaining queen cell and any that I find left in the flow hive.

I am gutted that I didn’t see the signs of swarming earlier, and taken corrective action. Live and learn eh. Quite an experience for a new beekeeper!

If you ask around I’m sure someone who is a beekeeper near you would love that queen cell rather than you destroy it.

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@Brianfade Just woke up and made a coffee, lots to read between you two to catch up. There is nothing in the photos to indicate a swarming event, when you see it happening for a first time Brian it will be really evident what is happening.
Entrance size is something I did a lot of experimenting with and most of my hives have an entrance size of about 100mm (4") as a good balance. I’m dead set against a full width entrance, more guard bee needed at the entrance to defend the hive and a robbing event is more likely in a poorly defended hive.
I have very calm bees in my apiary so I’m happy to have any queen-less hive make their own queen replacement, I have never met a queen supplier who says his queens are not the best you can buy. They are a bit like a used car salesman. :grinning:
When I see excessive bearding, and I’m not seeing it in your pics, the most common cause is too many bees for the size of the hive or the hive is too hot inside. My Climate is sub-tropical and so internal hive temperature can be an issue for me. If you see excessive bearding then only doing an inspection will give you the reason for it.
Tim has given good advice to you Brian, the pic I have added is bearding, look under the landing board of the middle hive, a hot day of about 32C (90F) and a strong hive. A fix in that circumstance could be adding another super or doing a split of the hive but that hive was transferred into a poly hive as an experiment into a hive of the same size but better insulation from external heat. 24 hours later with the same ambient temp there was no bearding at all, actually I was concerned the colony had absconded, so I did a quick check and all was good and found the bees really calm.



Very clear advice @Peter48 and @Tim_Purdie If I had seen the bees behave like in your photo, I would have been certain they were ready to swarm but good to know that it is not always the case.

What would be your suggestion for the bees left after the swarm? I currently have one 8-frame brood box, one super and an empty box to house a top feeder.

  • Do I give them more space by adding another brood box, to prevent a secondary swarm?

  • Leave the super on or take it off?


That’s not bearding, this is bearding:

But it was 38 degrees Celsius and 19% humidity that day (Nov 2014). Neither hive swarmed, the one on the right succumbed to AFB six months later.


If it were me I’d leave the boxes as they are, but a photo of how many bees are in that setup is really the big key here-- if they aren’t overcrowded leave as is, if they are crowded add another super, if there are barely any bees to cover two boxes I’d pull the super and the feeder box off. I’m not sure why you need to feed if your nectar flow is in swing and you want to use the honey stores for food for humans-- I don’t feed sugar syrup in this scenario at all. If the colony is super weak I’d combine with another hive.

Very helpful @Tim_Purdie. I’m planning a trip to the hives tomorrow so I’ll take some photos :+1:

The bees in that photo I posted were bearding from the internal heat of the hive, there were no queen cells in the hive apart from two ‘play cells’.
It really depends on your climate as to using a single or a double brood hive. I would find out what your locals do. When I was living to the west of Sydney with -7C for a few months of a Winters night a double brood hive was the way to go there. Now in sub-tropical Queensland and a week or two of 10C at night everyone has single brood hives.
Leave the super on if there is stores in it and there is bees in numbers on the frames and there is lots of brood.
Secondary swarms in not a common event I have but over a season I find that the colony can make plans for more than one swarm event, totally separate from the first event, that can happen from a month to a few months later. It is a '‘learning thing’ to know when to do preemptive splits at the right time so that you don’t loose your assets.