Honeyflow.com | FAQ's |

Bees will not go back into hive and don't want to leave the hive

Hi Everyone.

I have a situation maybe you can help with. Bees will not go back into the hive and don’t want to leave the hive. Almost all of them are on the outside near the top. Into the second day now.

@Semaphore said i should post this. I would be grateful for your wisdom. Thank you. @Michael_Bush @Dawn_SD @JeffH

Back story.
Tuesday 24th I placed a perfect nucleus hive in its current location. On the 27th, I transferred into the Flow broad box (on the flow legs). Everything seemed perfect.

First Day
1st JAN 7AM, I received a message and photo (from land owner). Bees gathered and hanging from the roof of hive like a swarm. Some were on the side of the box too. 26C day. The week before 40’s

A local beekeeper gave advice to shake the bees back into the brood box and add more space; a super. I did this. Real easy. :slight_smile:

Bees did not stay inside, they came out through the front door. 20 mins later. It looked like they were bearding while it was only 23C and there was still space inside.

Looking inside the box it was mostly empty. Maybe 30 bees. The 3 new frames were drawn out completely but empty, so it’s not like they have no space.

I also noticed some ants on top of the frames. 10 at the most. Lots of ants on the ground.

YouTube said bearding was normal so I decided to return home thinking the bearding would reduce since I add more space.

I returned to see bees gathered on top of super. Not bearding, but i am new.

I took off the roof, lid and super in one piece without disturbing the bees. I inspected every frame for ants but not one ant. This is were I wish I was more experienced, inspecting frames. I saw open larvae, capped brew and honey/pollen.

I took out 2 frames and shook the bees back into the brood box, replaced the frames. However, the bees did not want to stay in the box. They all few out and into the air above (what a site).

At the same time i added some short term ant solution.

I put the hive back together with QE and super and 20 mins later they all descended back on the front of the hive. (they outdoor bees).

I decided not to do anything else, maybe I’ve done too much.

Second day. Still gathered near the top as close together as possible.

I asked a local beekeeper to inspect the hive for me (I was not there). I am waiting for his call soon with his report. But the land owner said he shook the bees into the bottom box and again the bees flew into the air but 30mins later returned to the front of the hive.

I don’t know what is going on. They don’t want to go inside but don’t want to leave the hive.

There is something in the box they do not like?
Can bees collect and store substance in a hive that makes want to leave?
The frames look clean, nothing ugly or stinky.
I used paint recommended by flow hive. Paint only on the outside.

I have been trying to help diagnose this weirdness with Thorpie over the phone- but it has me stumped- it’s like absconding- and maybe also a bit like practice swarming- but not really like either. Ants seem a possibility- but also unlikely I think. The bees were fine for several days in a nuc box- this behavior only began after they went into the larger hive. The nuc was well developed with honey, pollen, capped brood- fully drawn. This picture gives an indication of the large number of bees:

That looks like regular bearding but it was cool that day. All those bees have come from what was 5 frames in a heavily packed Nuc.

One of only variables that has me wondering is the araucaria timber? I know it’s great for beehives- but is it possible if it was not cured fully something in it may annoy the bees? I know it’s an aromatic antimicrobial timber? My own flow hives have been cedar and regular pine.

Yes odd considering they have drawn frames and eggs are laid.
I have a question though, why is the super on?
I wonder if the queen has been squashed accidentally on the area where the bees are congregating.
Maybe some lemongrass oil inside the hive may encourage them.

1 Like

Hi Jack, there is something inside the box that the bees don’t like would be my only answer. I would put them into another brood box, one with plenty of bee pheromones in it. Then in the mean time do something about the inside of the box the bees are rejecting.


The problem is inside the hive, forget the paint being the problem as they are happily walking on it. I would use a very light smear of Lemon Grass oil on the floor of the hive as @skeggley has suggested, Too much Lemon Grass can turn the bees away so just the lightest of smears.
Bee won’t collect something they don’t want so give that idea a miss.
You would need a heap of ants to be the problem, believe me, I have an ant issue in 3 hives on a single stand, it it a bigger issue for me, the bees don’t seem to care about them. I found a large ant nest under the hive today so that is my #1 job for tomorrow.
You could also replace the hive with a completely different hive placed in the same position and orientation and if the bees take to it, at least the bees will have a home, but the problem remains.
Just a thought, if frames with new foundation is in the hive maybe they are crap Chinese foundation with a mix of bees wax and paraffin. I’m with @JeffH, it is something inside the box, but it has me stumped and I have never seen it before so my thoughts are just that, thoughts.

1 Like

It’s not the frames Peter- I supplied them- nz pine, wired, glued and nailed with goood ol’ Aussie made E.C Tobin & Sons pure beeswax foundation :+1:t2::wink::honeybee:

@skeggley super went on because bees bearded so much and seemed like possible overcrowding. Now that’s ruled out super will be coming back off

1 Like

OK, it is just a thought that could be the problem. Then with the process of elimination we are left logically with the bee boxes, roof and base board. It would be worth trying by taking them out of the equation by replacing them and I would expect a quick result one way or the other. But as I have said I have never had a colony reject a hive or even heard of it Jack.
I guess you have thought of trying Lemon Grass oil?
Other than that in base ball terms we have been pitched a curve ball but I would like to hear the answer.
Cheers mate

1 Like

No worries it was a possibility worth mentioning. And yes, I just sold Thorpie a new hive tonight - he’ll rehome the bees tomorrow and then we’ll see if the hive itself is the issue. Very strange situation

Thank you everyone for your advice. I have a new box. Thanks Jack.

I’m hoping it will be as easy as placing frames and shaking the bees in the new box.

If anyone has better approach, I’m open and keen to learn.

1 Like

Hi Jack, I’ve had small colonies with only one frame of brood abscond from boxes they don’t like in the past, leaving the brood to perish. These were boxes that had been freshly scorched.

What I do in that situation now is I swap the freshly scorched brood box from a complete colony after smearing some lemongrass oil in it. I have found that a colony containing a normal amount of brood (7 or 8 frames) wont abscond & leave all of that brood behind. A strong colony will quickly clean the inside of the new box & coat it with their own smell. Then I can place the small colony in the good smelling super, which they never abscond from.

1 Like

that’s what’s odd about this situation- the colony had a box with 5 frames of lovely brood and stores and three fresh foundations. I have an update from Thorpie: he took the new hive down today and transferred the bees into it- however he then found about 2 thirds were gone- had swarmed across the road- and been captured by another beek into a Nuc… Crazy start to his beekeepign adventure… As I type he is taking that Nuc and will shake the bees back into the original hive- not ideal but I couldn’t think of e better approach to this unique situation. The Nuc is only a 3 frame box and has only one frame of brood in it that the neighbouring beek put in to hold the swarm.

I am just hoping the bees haven’t been separated long enough to be strangers- or been across the road long enough to be re-oriented. I am sure bees will be lost- and have no idea if he still has a queen or where she would be in all this mess. Not sure if the brood in the original hive has suffered by not being attended to over the last few days.

All of this has me really wondering what it was int he Flow hive that the bees simply could not tolerate? The only thing I can think of is the timber somehow- either it wasn’t properly cured or had become contaminated in some way?

Hi Jack, my guess was that the timber could have been inadvertently contaminated at the mill or in transport or something like that. The approach I would take would be to put the colony in a well used brood box. Then work out a strategy to deal with the contaminated box in the mean time. For me, that could involve lightly scorching, then scrubbing, then a couple of coats of paint, then the paint allowed to cure for a couple of weeks.

1 Like

Hiya Jeff, I’ve recently scorched a couple of new nuc boxes thinking it was a good idea. Not sure it was such a good idea now. Thinking of using the water from my wax melt to mask the smell as the bees seem to like it, a lot, thoughts?

Hi Skeggley, I’m pretty sure that wax melt water would go a long way to masking the smell.

In relation to this topic I’ve been wondering if melted slumgum smeared inside the box would help. I remember reading once about a recipe for a paste to smear inside of a swarm lure. From memory it was made from slumgum & propolis & all that sort of stuff.

The times that small colonies absconded from freshly scorched boxes, the scorching was very recent & I put it down to the burnt smell which I figured the bees related that to fire. That was why I said earlier that I’d scrub it before painting it. Having said that, whenever I swapped a full size colony, with brood into those scorched boxes, I had no absconding. I believe that a strong colony will quickly coat the surface with whatever they normally use which would mask the smell.

1 Like

Hi everyone. Just an update with the bees refusing to enter hive.

New box. Very cool in Barossa valley today. I peeked inside there were ants on top of the frames and around the box but still more bees than ants.

Placed cinnamon and ant powder around the box.

I think ants are in the box because the bees are not, but I’m new at this.

Anyone have any ideas?!

I have 1 other hive in a flow box 1 meter away from this hive doing well. Same activity for the last 3 weeks.

Hey @Thorpie so is this the second hive that the bees are refusing to enter at that location?
That has really stumped me I admit.
I would try a smear of Lemon Grass Oil on the floor near the entrance, or in desperation move the hives position in your yard, that is something you shouldn’t do but I’m thinking you need to try something a bit radical. Just a late thought, smear a little honey on the floor as a ‘bait’ and it might get a few of the bees going into the hive for a feed and it might be all they need.
Ants are pain in the behind but I don’t see them as the issue, I have 3 hives on a stand that I regarded as infested with ants, but the hives are still very active, I found the ant nest under the stand and dusted it yesterday.
Your issue is something that in 45+ years of bee keeping I haven’t seen.

I like Peter’s idea of honey inside the box. You could try smearing it all over the wood. The bees will definitely clean it up which should leave the inside smelling better than before.

1 Like

@JeffH @Peter48 thank you.

I have not harvested any honey yet.

Stupid question. Can I just use raw honey I have purchased? Water it down?

1 Like

The risk of using purchased raw honey is that it could contain traces of A or EFB. That’s something to always be aware of.

If you have another empty box, you could transfer the other colony into that. Then use their box for the new colony. After that, transfer the established colony into the box the new colony is rejecting. Provided they have a lot of brood underway, they shouldn’t abscond from it.

PS. one way of getting some honey out of the established hive would be to take one of the brood frames that has a honey arc above the brood. Remove most of the bees, while trying to avoid shaking the queen, before gently scraping some of the honey from above the brood into a dish. Then replace the frame

1 Like

I would just smear some honey without diluting it, if you buy ‘store bought honey’ it will already be diluted and you just need to accept that. I wouldn’t water it down. Smear some just inside the entrance and some more inside the hive. Doing that will also attract the ants further but lets get the bees interested and relaxed about some honey in the hive first.