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Combining queenless(?) primary swarm with secondary swarm

I caught a very large swarm 14 days ago- every indication was that it was a primary swarm. Yesterday I checked on the hive for the first time and found no evidence of any queen. There were no eggs anywhere to be seen- and the bees had started making a few small queen cups (empty and incomplete). The bees also seemed a bit agitated as I would expect with queenlessness.

I was about to give them a frame of eggs- but all my bees are the darker local and this swarm are the light yellow ‘Italian’ type from a bred queen. I want to keep that strain if I can. Luckily today I got another call out that the same hive had issued another much smaller swarm. I just went and caught it.

I assume the second one has a virgin queen in it. My plan is to combine the two with the newspaper method.

My question is should I wait- or just combine them tomorrow morning? I am 95% sure the first hive is queenless but cannot be 100% sure. there is a small chance it had a virgin queen in it- and she has not yet started laying.

Any thoughts in a plan of action?

If the secondary swarm is big enough to survive without a lot of input from you then you could give it a chance on its own. But if the primary swarm doesn’t have a queen and the secondary swarm does then combining the two makes sense. I would be expecting the primary swarm should have the laying queen from the original hive and would already be laying, but that is ‘normal’ and we all know that bees don’t always do what we expect them to.
Do you feel your between a rock and a hard place Jack :thinking: Mate, you call it and be happy with your decision.


not such a bad place to be- worst case I combine- best case I end up with two colonies. The second is small but big enough to really get going this early in the year. The first is huge and completely fills and 8 frame box. Very happy to get these Yellow Italian bees as they are great for urban beekeeping being very passive and rarely ever stinging. My brother has the same type and his are productive and passive and never swarmed on him once.

I did expect a laying queen in the firts one- so that’s why I am fairly sure there is no queen anymore as no signs after 14 days. Even a virgin should be laying after that amount of time if everything goes according to plan. Plenty of drones about and nice sunny days.

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Your thinking is good, so why not run the two separately to give every opportunity to the Primary hive to come good and if it doesn’t then combine or add a frame of eggs from the secondary hive to keep the strain going or a frame of eggs from another hive.

I might just do that- though to be honest- the way this spring is starting out I have a feeling I will be able to make more splits and catch more swarms than I will know what to do with. Again, a good problem to have. In the last14 days I have caught 3 swarms and made two splits already- with 7 more hives to check over the next few days at three separate apiaries.

It would be kind of neat to combine the two tomorrow and end up with one super hive with a brand new freshly minted yellow queen.


I would settle for half your luck Jack. It is looking good over here with Wattle booming and all my hives are full of brood and active. I just hope we get Spring rain to lead up to a normal Summer, I would hate to se another like last Summer.
The bush is so think here I could be a metre from a swarm and miss seeing it, there are faster swarm catchers than me in the suburban scene.
Cheers mate

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Hey Jack,

Unless you want to increase hives I’d probably join them. Especially if you anticipate a good flow shortly. It’ll be easier, you’ll get more honey and probably be able to split them later if you want anyway.

What is the ‘newspaper method’? Combining two swarms?

Hey Springa,

I can see you are keen to learn and understand by your questions on recent posts…that’s great.
Newspaper method in short is putting one hive on top of another hive with only a sheet or two of Newspaper in between them. It’s a way of merging two different hives together. There’s more to it than what I have said here but if you type in “Newspaper” in to the search bar at the top right of this page, you’ll get many threads that explain and talk about it.


@BayoNat has nailed it with his answer, what you do is to sit one hive on top the the other without the baseboard, with only two sheets of newspaper separating them, the bees will take a couple of days to chew through and in that time will merge together without fighting as they will be used to the smells and accept each other. A very bomb proof way to combine a couple of hives or a swarm to a hive after dispatching one of the queens.

Hi Jack, I would give them both a frame with eggs & not combine them. It IS the start of Spring with the whole season in front of you.

i would normally just do that- but the only eggs I have to spare are local mutt bees and I really want to maintain some of the yellow strain to compare them and for urban beekeeping. I have decided to let the swarm settle for a week or two before checking the main hive again to see if it is queenless. Then I will either merge or take eggs from the swarm for the larger hive.

Don’t knock local mutt bees, with the emphasis on LOCAL Jack. At least they have the genes for your climate. :smiley: Good luck with it and look forward to your update mate.

Hi Jack, the frames of brood containing eggs wont stop the yellow genes if the colonies are queen right. If the colonies don’t have viable queens, it will give the colonies a chance to produce new ones. They are like “test frames”.

If the colonies are queen right, then you decide to propagate from them, it wont take long before you’re back to local mutts again. I must admit that nice yellow bees do look good. I don’t blame you for wanting to keep the yellow strain.


yes- after some time the yellow strain will be gone again- however my brother has that type and they have requeened at least once since he got them 3 years ago- and the bees still look predominantly yellow. So my guess is you will keep many of the yellow traits for at least 3 to 5 years and maybe longer- which isn’t bad. I feel they also add some diversity to the local gene pool. I am keen to compare the two breeds over time, and I have a friend with 5 hives all descended from the same swarm that have aggressive swarmy traits- I will be able to give him frames of yellow eggs to help him requeen his hives and breed out the nastiness. Finally as you say- I find them lovely to look at at- handsome yellow bees.


Hi Jack, when it’s all boiled down, color is irrelevant. The queens I propagate from are excellent layers & have progeny that are reasonable tempered & hard workers.