Dealing with a Hive that has Swarmed- a lesson learned

Early this spring my best hive issued a HUGE swarm. Luckily I was able to capture it and give it to a friend- the swarm built up very fast in his hive and filled the super with honey in just a few months. It absolutely boomed.

meanwhile the mother hive- struggled all season. I had to give it frames of brood every month or so for all of spring, summer and autumn. I must have donated 8 frames in total to keep the hive limping along. Over that period the hive went queenless several times. I don’t know why but it would make a queen and then that queen would just disappear and the bees hadn’t made queen cells to replace her. Now at the very end of Autumn it finally seems to have a good laying queen which they made from the last frame of brood I gave them.

But the hive is still weak- and the last time I inspected it I noticed that the outermost frame were completely ignored with the bees and brood clustered in the center. I finally realised that I should transfer the whole colony into a smaller 5 frame nuc box- and lose the empty frames- which I did.

I now realise that that is what I should have done way back in spring when the hive swarmed. I think that it would have built up much faster if it was in a smaller box with less space to heat and defend.

I think this all depends on how big the swarm is and what is left after the swarm- but in this case it was clear that the swarm took most of the bees and most of the stores with them. The bees that remained had no way make use of a full 8 brood frames anymore. In fact I think this would apply for any hive that is weak and cannot fill up a brood box- letting them build up first in a smaller Nuc box gives them a much better chance to thrive.


Hi Jack, I thought you were going to say that you shouldn’t have given the HUGE swarm away.

I think that the lesson to learn would be to not give a colony a frame of brood every month or so. Give them a frame of brood every 7-10 days. Especially sealed & emerging brood. In that case, forget about the 5 frame nuc box. Stick to the 8 frame brood box.

That’s my line of thinking. cheers


I probably would do that- but I don’t have an endless supply of frames to donate. However early on I was giving them a frame every ten to 12 days. At one point they made a nice queen and all seemed good- then she just vanished and they dodn’t make a new one. they were getting old and low in numbers so I gave them more brood and they made another queen- she also failed.

I don’t like to remove supers from good hives and take out brood unless I have too- or its early spring and I want to weaken them out. As is- I kept a caught swarm Nuc I had on hand weak all year by constantly taking out nice frames of brood. It has been a great little resource though that swarm. I just think in this case the bees would have been able to build up and defend themselves much quicker if they were in a small nuc. I reckon they would have recovered earlier and I could have then transferred them into the 8 frame months ago.

Still- I understand what you are saying and your no doubt right.

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I did read where you caught 14 swarms last season. I see any of those as a good source of brood to help out any weak colony.

I caught a swarm a couple of weeks ago, that was in fact a hive on a branch that crashed to the ground. I have already taken one frame of brood out of it. They currently occupy 4 frames in a 10 frame super.

With a hive mat over the frames, plus other drawn frames next to the frames the bees are on as well as a greatly reduced entrance, I think they’ll survive our winter.

Certainly better than being out in the open on a branch.

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I did catch all those swarms- but then I combined some- built some up and moved them off to my hills apiaries, gave one away, etc. One absconded…

as i now have to move house all six of my backyard beehives here will all go up to my best hills apiary whilst I find out where I will be living. I think I’ll only keep 2 hives at my next house assuming I can have any at all…

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According to Randy Oliver a prime swarm can take 75 % of the bees. I’d have kept it and given the re queening colony away as a nuc :wink:

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My hive easily lost 75%- and I would have kept it but I’d just caught so many smaller swarms I didn’t have anything ready to put it in. My friend had just finished painting a new hive so it was meant to be. He was very lucky indeed. This is the swarm:

One thing I learned catching swarms: if you keep bees it’s a good idea to have a lemon tree- a rose bush- and lemongrass in your garden. Of the 14 swarms I caught at least 9 were in or near one of these things. I’m pretty sure the queen must be sniffing when she leaves- and these things attract her- where she goes they go. Rose bushes make for easy swarm capture:


Thanks for the excellent pics of the swarm, a bit large for a nuc box :grinning: . How has your moving progressed Jack?
Finally on the east coast we are now looking towards the arrival of winter and the false summers seems to be coming to an end. Autumn lasted about two weeks. Days are down to the early 20’s so it is time to work on new frames and boxed for the spring.

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yeah- there was no way that swarm would squash into any Nuc- it only just fitted into a 10 frame box- and it came from an 8 frame one! I put one frame of brood and 8 frames of new foundation in the 10 frame box and the swarm had completely built out that brood box in 5 weeks- and filled the roof with honey.

Moving is going slowly- still trawling real estate pages (which I hate). I’ll be moving all my hives this weekend just to get that out of the way and decrease the stress I am under.

adelaide is sunny today but cold- the bees are active the last week bringing lots of pollen all of a sudden.

Early twenties is what we get for summer usually. How our queens get mated I sometimes wonder.

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You take it easy on yourself Jack, don’t push the envelope and often things will fall into place. It is so easy to get stressed and then have things go wrong.


Tis all written down in the book about “The birds and the bees”. :hushed: A summer 20c would send me packing so I takes me hat off to you and your bees. Brrr.