Bees moved out of super

So on the weekend, I built my hive a stand and erected a small sail to keep it in at least partial shade throughout the day. The bees were a bit miffed when I moved their home onto the stand, but seemed to do OK on Sunday. At this point of the season they were busy working on the Flow super. Most of the cells have nectar in them, and about 30% are capped.

I came home after a hot day today (37C), and I can barely see any bees in the super. There are still bees coming and going from the hive, but where the window used to be covered in bees, there are probably only 10 or 20 visible in the window now.

Any ideas why? Could the colony swarm this late in the season (it was a colony I caught as a swarm about 7 weeks ago)? Could it be that I accidentally put the brood box back on the stand back-to-front? Have they all just moved down into the brood box?

When did you last look in?
What is the status quo in the brood box?

Haven’t checked the brood box in 3 weeks. Last time I looked there was fully drawn comb on all frames, and most were about 70% full of pollen, capped brood and nectar.

Possible they’ve gone back down to the brood box to finish off there?

Sounds like time for an inspection.
Not too late to swarm at all, I’ve seen swarms here in .February.
If the super is still down on numbers I’m guessing you will fing queen cells next inspection.
Are you seeing many drones?

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Interesting. I assumed that a colony that I caught from a swarm less than 2 months ago wouldn’t swarm again until they were fully established.

I have seen a lot of drones. I posted a thread a few days back about the numbers of dead drones I saw at the entrance to the hive. I’ve also noticed that during the mid-afternoon, live drones are hanging around outside the entrance.

OK, quick inspection before work. Here is what I found:

  • A lot of the capped brood that was present is now uncapped and empty.
  • The top 20% or so of the brood frames are capped honey.
  • About 20% of the brood frames are capped brood. Two of the outer frames had capped drone brood, the rest capped worker brood.
  • No larvae that I could see (could be due to inexperience).
  • No queen I could see (though I’ve never managed to spot her).
  • Two capped queen cells at the bottom of two frames.
  • Much reduced colony size. The super was practically empty, and the brood frames had way less bees.

So, am I correct in assuming that the colony swarmed yesterday and I’m now left with a queenless colony? I assume the capped queen cells at the bottom of the hive are swarm cells and I’ll get a virgin queen out of them?

Aaah I see, maybe it’s not swarmed then if it’s only been 2 months although they can build up quickly. I have one hive that is full of drones mid arvo. It is one that in a couple of weeks exploded in size and swarmed which, as a newbee, took me unawares. I noticed the absence of bees in the super, inspected and found queen cells.

I would say they have swarmed on you and your old queen has left as you have already deducted. Check again in a week and you should have a small virgin queen.

I agree…She’s gone but at least she left a replacement

So, I guess the moral of the story here is that I should have checked a few weeks ago and put another super on?

Ahhhhh hindsight.
No the lesson to be learned is to check regularly for room at least, takes a minute or two.
We’ve all been caught out.
What bees do here is motor along nicely with some stores and still room for the queen to lay .
Along comes two weeks of non-flying weather so you don’t bother looking in, assuring yourself that there is no need and pencilling in the first fine afternoon. Meanwhile the first fine morning they swarm having plotted and had nothing else to do in the last two weeks


It is a fair assumption that the bees wont swarm until the hive is fully established. We have to remember that swarming is how bees reproduce. Sometimes the urge to reproduce is so strong, they forget all the rules. In the natural world: take humans for example… Need I say any more?

A bit of an update. The girls are pretty defensive at the moment. I got stung yesterday while I was working out in the garden. This morning I did a hive inspection which seemed to piss them off even more. I’ve copped 3 minor stings to the face (can the same bee sting a few times if they don’t get their sting in very far?) and the guard bees are chasing me whenever I get closer than 5m or so to the hive.

Anyway, the inspection:

  • Couldn’t see any virgin queen (but I don’t seem to be very good at spotting them).
  • A couple of open, and a couple of closed queen cells on the frames. One of the open cells looked like it was used, not just an uncapped cell.
  • Larvae, some reasonably big. I guess on my inspection last week I missed eggs left behind by the old queen.
  • The workers are starting to fill uncapped brood cells with nectar.

I think I’ll have to wait until next week, or possibly the week after to really confirm I have a new queen, and she’s mated and laying. Hopefully she reigns in some of the workers so they aren’t as mean, too.

Yes have a look in two weeks and then just a quick one to look for new brood.
If the bees are back filling the brood cells make sure they have more room to move that honey when the queen starts laying. For next time what you look for if you don’t spot brood and suspect you do have a queen is an area in the middle of a frame that has been cleaned by the bees and where the cells are polished

Uh, OK. What exactly does a polished cell look like? Do they polish them ready for the queen to lay?

To be honest, the brood box is a bit of a mess. There is brood and honey on all of the frames. The top 25% or so is mostly honey, the bottom section is brood with smatterings of pollen at each end. It isn’t the nice pattern you normally see with brood in the centre frames and honey on the outside ones. The capped brood is well clustered, though.

There is already a Flow super on top, but it is probably 75% full and 40% capped. I guess I’ll need another super?

Ok so it takes about 28 days for a queen to be made from an egg, say 20 from a queen cell, hatched and mated and laying or there abouts give or take a few days so, as the colony may have swarmed a week ago you have another couple of weeks before you see eggs. (Someone correct my maths if I am incorrect please.)
A polished cell is one that has been cleaned out prepared for its next tenant.
Bees apparently do get a bit stroppy when queen less which would explain their behaviour.
A female bee has barbs on their stinger so it is unlikely it was the same bee, the queen however doesn’t but I doubt it was her.
Do you do inspections suitLess?
I left the super on when mine swarmed but there’s not much going n there now, still waiting for the numbers to build since they swarmed a month ago…
It’s all a learning experience. :wink:

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Yep, that’s what I assumed on the timeline. Even if the closed queen cells that I saw last Tuesday had a queen emerge that day, she immediately mated and began laying, there is no chance they’d turn into larvae as big as I saw today.

I wasn’t paying much attention to whether cells were polished, unfortunately. Next time.

It’s weird. I have 3 red dots around my eye where she “stung”, but it didn’t hurt like a real sting and is barely swollen. Unlike the sting on my knee which has my entire shin swollen.

I don’t inspect suitless, no. Inspection today was done by a fully suited up girlfriend. I had on a hat/veil and hung around to be the smoker guy and run a second pair of eyes across the frames.

The stings I copped were before and after the inspection. One when I was filling the ant moats at the legs with water, one when I was trying to lay out some honey filled burr comb we removed during inspection. Normally they have no issue whatsoever with me moving around the hive however I want. Not the past few days.

My remaining workers are walking around the super, but probably only a few hundred bees each frame, nowhere near the numbers as before.

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Bees can and do ping you. Sometimes without stinging sometimes just a tickle with the sting. It’s a warning. That’s probably what you experienced

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Well that’s new to me but, then again, it all it. :slight_smile:
@shoobs, if it’s overcast, as it was today, our bees are always testy. I only inspect with my jacket cos, like your knee I puff up… They say a sting now and then is good thing but they can keep it I’m good without…

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