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Artificial swarm technique


Spring is here, and our hive is ramping up at an insane pace. Since our last inspection 3 weeks ago, the bees have almost entirely filled the Flow super, and the brood box is brimming with bees (there are traffic jams at the front entrance). There is also a full traditional super left over after winter on the very top of the hive.

I suspect we’re going to have to split the hive to stop them from swarming imminently, so I’ve been reading about some artificial swarm techniques. I have a couple of stackable, 5 frame nucleus boxes at the moment which I was hoping to use.

A couple of questions:

  • When I use the Pagden method, do I actually have to replace the brood box with a new one in the old location? Wouldn’t it be easier just to pull all the brood frames (bar one with the queen on it) out of the original brood box and put them in a new box in a new location?
  • Is there an alternative method that doesn’t involve finding the queen? Even after a year of inspections, I’m still struggling to find her.


Shoots, I am only a newby with 12 months up. I have done two splits, one in autumn and one two days ago. I did the walk away split. It dies not matter which hive ends up with the queen as long as long as they have some larvae and some tucker and some peace and quiet
Ps where are you?


In Perth. I guess I was going to try and make sure the queen and most of the colony stayed in the original location (with an empty brood box) to try and avoid interrupting their honey production too much.

If they can’t tell the difference between the old brood box and a new one, I reckon it’ll be easier for me to move the frames rather than the old box out of the way.


I am also a newbie- but did a spilt last year for the same reasons. In that case I took 3 frames from an 8 frame brood. As you are only taking three frames- you only need to be sure the queen isn’t on one of them. One frame can be honey- so you can shake the bees off that one- or look carefully odds are the queen won’t be there- the next two brood- if they are taken from an edge- the odds are the queen won’t be on them- no guarantee of course. But look at them carefully- and if you still don’t see the queen- the odds are now higher still.

After that you can shake some extra bees off a honey frame from the super- if it’s above the excluder then no queen there either.

It worked for me I didn’t get the queen


It achieves the same result except you have to move more frames your way.

This system can only be used if the colony is showing signs of swarming, i.e. there are queen cells with larvae in them. If queen cells are sealed it is too late as this indicates that the colony may have already swarmed.

  1. Move the original brood box and floor to one side. A minimum of one metre. This is called “the parent colony”. The younger bees remain in this box
  2. Place a new brood box and floor filled with drawn comb or foundation on the original site. This is called the ‘Artificial Swarm’; the flying bees will fill this box.
  3. Examine the brood combs in the original brood box (parent colony) and remove a comb containing eggs and young brood. It must not have any queen cells on it.
  4. Place this comb in the centre of the new box (artificial swarm).
  5. Replace the vacant space in the original box (parent colony) with a new drawn comb or
  6. Place any supers on the new brood box (artificial swarm) at the original site.
    Leave for seven days then
  7. Examine the new brood box (artificial swarm). If there are no queen cells then the queen is probably in this colony and eggs should be visible. If there are queen cells select one with a visible larva and destroy the rest.
  8. If the queen is not present in the original box (parent colony) then emergency queen cells will be built. Knock down all queen cells bar one opened cell with a visible healthy larva. From this, a virgin queen will hatch and take over the colony. However, if the queen is present then due to the reduced number of bees they will break down any queen cells and eggs and young larvae will be seen.
  9. Later in the season or in the following spring you will need to find the older queen to cull her. The colonies can then be re-united.

Honey flow South East QLD

I’m I Perth as well, I was wondering about doing a split soon. I can never find the queen either. I had a thought, I was thinking of taking a couple of brood frames shaking of all bees, placing them above queen excluder, come back the next day, move those frames to another box together a frame of honey and pollen. The queen should still be in the brood box and some nurse bees go with the brood frames. Any comments problems people can see, cheers Tim


Here are some more


That would work admirably.
Just swap boxes when you’ve done.
Take the old box away. Then you could do a Modified Snelgrove as described in the leaflet I’ve linked above.


Thanks very much Dee. I will keep that report handy🙂
Cheers Tim


Just make sure you have plenty of house bees in the new hive so they can regulate and defend it.