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Bees went away, what did I do?


I live in Rwanda in east Africa. Nearly a year ago I caught a swarm of bees, had some trouble (which I posted about it here: Caught a birdhouse swarm, hived it, left it alone, and now the bees are in the wrong place

Those bees eventually absconded after I over-inspected them (rookie mistake) and had the hive open for way too long (nearly 20 minutes) one day.

So I’ve been sitting, bee-less, waiting for more.

I finally caught a swarm, three weeks ago, from the same yard where I caught the first bees. Ok, it wasn’t actually a swarm, but I cut all the comb I could out of an attic crawl space and brought them home. I put them in my frames with rubber bands (like I was told to before), hoping I’d gotten the queen in the grab of bees from the attic.

Today, after leaving them alone (made easier because I was out of town for 17 days), I went down to the hive and found it vacant.

Below are pictures of what I found on each frrame :frowning:

My hive location is here, at the bottom of the yard, well away from any regular human activity. Although there is a road about 20 meters on the other side of that hedge.

What’s your guess as to what happened?

  • I probably didn’t get the queen
  • Something is wrong with my hive
  • Something is wrong with my hive location
  • Something else is wrong

0 voters

If you think something else is wrong, please explain/help in a comment below.

Thank you!


I think you probably did not get the queen, but there may be another consideration. How far away is your hive location from the location of the attic where you cut the comb from? If it is less than 2 or 3 miles, they may have just gone back home. :hushed:


It looks like you got a lot of drone brood and honey.

Those sunken brood capping’s would have me looking deeper into things. Maybe they’re just old in the pic. Poke them with a toothpick, pull it out slowly and make sure it isn’t stringy. Observe the odor as well.


I’m curious of the comb orientation. If the comb was secured upside down or sideways from how it was originally would the bees still work the comb?


Great question. Some of those cells look upside down to me (cells sloping down towards the ground, rather than a slight upslope). If there was honey in those cells, it may well have drained out. Not sure about how the bees feel about brood situated upside down. I have never banded comb that way, but I imagine the bees would need to reshape it before it could be used, or just abandon it and build new comb.


Hi @Dawn_SD & @skeggley, I experimented with upside down brood a while back & discovered that the bees had no problems with it. Also on one of Vino’s videos he inadvertently put a sheet of brood comb down flat, the bees had no problem with that either. As it turns out, orientation wont be a problem.

If I retrieve comb from a cut out, I would only select the good worker comb & render the rest. The bees will fill up on honey during the process, so leaving honey for them wont be an issue, short term.

The comb in the frames should have been left in the attic for a while to see if the bees, including the queen cluster on them. After that happens, place them in the box, put the lid on & take it away after dark to a new location several k’s away. That is assuming there is enough room in the attic for a box.

@Bungee, congratulations on dealing with bees in a crawl space of an attic:)


I seem to recall that there are some short term experiments from the space station. However, in that case, honey would only run out on take-off (under 3G of gravity!). The brood issue is interesting too though. Thanks for making me think again, @JeffH


Hi Dawn, here is a link to Vino’s video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KT7Wm8Y5I4&index=7&list=PLRWcJng54KzpJzKDoA-j3_Q5rDwTiNyiO You can clearly see at the 4:50 mark that there is sealed brood on the comb that he laid flat. Here is my video I did a while back, doing the upside down experiment. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9A22uxIT-w After watching the video again, I realized that I only showed the results. The experiment came about after discussions with @adagna. As you can imagine I was most interested to see the sealed brood in Vino’s video.


Many races of African bees don’t stick around if you mess with them. They’ll flip you that middle leg and off they go. You could check back in the original location if it’s within 3 miles. When catching a swarm or doing a cutout try hard to find the queen, cage her for a week and feed the bees to make them feel like it’s home.


Thanks, @Dawn_SD and @Kristinahoney, for both your helpful comments and refocusing the thread on my topic.


A[quote=“Bungee, post:10, topic:9951”]
refocusing the thread on my topic.
I didn’t see the thread go off topic at all. An alternative to your thoughts was suggested and subsequently dismissed.

Too far off topic to answer???


Sorry, @skeggley Didn’t see your response. The bees are within a couple miles of the place where I cut them out. Maybe that’s where they went!?!

It’s frustrating for this to happen twice!


Do bait hives work where you live ?


Thanks @Dee, never tried a bait hive. A good idea. All I’ve read is that I should take out the old comb, put in foundation and maybe some lemongrass oil/extract? What else do you suggest?


Leave one old brood comb in there, some people add a squashed old queen, swarm lures, lemongrass oil…allsorts but comb that smells of bees is the best attractant.
No stores or bees will just come and rob it out.
No foundation, just put empty frames in. Scout bees measure the size of the cavity to make their minds up whether it will be a good home. If you put foundation in there they may decide the space is too small


I find it best to only take a portion of the brood comb, none of the honey comb and all of the bees. That way you don’t get the mess of cutting out honey (and getting bees all sticky) and by not taking all of the brood you avoid having so much brood that the bees can’t cover it well… Then, of course, you want to leave them alone so they don’t decide to abscond.


Thanks, Michael. I agree. The attic were I cut them out was tight, dark, and difficult to crawl around. I agree, that’s what I should have done in a perfect world.

Thanks for the tip for next time, though!