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Hive keeps swarming!? 3rd swarm

I have a strong hive single brood that came through winter well. So well I opened it up in winter and removed some honey frames to give them more space. Then I inspected early to ensure no swarm signs- and saw none. 10 days later it swarmed- a big primary swarm that I caught and took away. The same day I looked in the hive and found many queen cells. So I immediately made a split and removed 4 of the 8 brood frames, leaving only one cell in the mother hive. I gave them 4 new combs to work. about 14 days later- it swarmed again- this time the swarm only formed loosely in my neighbors yard and then flew straight back into the hive. I looked in again: I saw one young queen- and one capped queen cell. I destroyed the queen cell. There were no other queen cells and no young larvae or eggs to make any more with only some mature capped brood about to emerge.

Now today- about 6 days later it has swarmed again. I have caught them- only a mid-size swarm this time.

all the while the main population seems strong and still bringing in pollen as half the bees swarmed.

This hive has me stumped as I have done just about every swarm prevention method I can think of.

I assume there must have been more than one virgin queen last time I looked - that’s the only explanation I can think of for todays swarm.

Oh- and I have question that may actually have an answer: is there any place in a swarm cluster where the queen is most likely to be? I have always assumed it is probably somewhere near the top of the cluster but I have never been able to spot a queen within the cluster. It would be so handy to be able to catch the queen, I have looked but never see them. Do any of you fellow swarm catchers routinely hunt down and find the queen? Do you have any methods you could share?

I caught todays swarm- it marched into my nuc box- now the bees are coming out and flying back into the mother hive again. Many bees are fanning at the entrance of the mother hive to guide them all back… Very weird- second time this has happened.

The only explanation given the time frame is that you have missed seeing virgin queens or queen cells close to emerging. It can be hard to see queen cells and virgin queens in a really dense hive of bees. It is unusual though for a swarm to leave a hive and then to return to it, it makes me think they left but for some reason the swarm didn’t have a queen with it and so it returned to the hive.
This trick may work, I used to use it to quickly find a queen that wasn’t marked and was playing hard to find, it might work in finding the queen in a swarm. Put a frame or two of brood in an empty box and put a QX on it and another empty box on top of the QX. Leave it for 10 minutes for the scent to waft about. Shake the swarm into the top box and the bees will head through the QX for the brood and soon all that will be left is drones and the queen — according to theory !!!
I have been doing splits since July 10th, from memory, a couple of days ago I had time to check if any of the queen-less splits were in need of another frame of brood or stores and one colony had 9 capped queen cells over 2 frames, so I cut out the best and did 5 more splits off from other hives that were strong and added the best of the queen cells I cut out of the frames. Glad I had spare wood ware I had recently made and pleased that I took the time to check how the splits were going, but hey, 9 queen cells in one colony, they were determined to have a queen. :laughing:
20C the last couple of days, the bees are working hard and plenty of pollen and some nectar about, looking good over here.

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things also looking very promising here in adelaide for the start of spring- hives super active.

after one hour 95% of all the bees have returned to the mother hive. It’s like they never had a queen with them- they laded and clustered exactly where the original large swarm landed two weeks ago- attracted by the pheromone that must have been left there. I put them in a box- first they all marched in but then over an hour they all marched back out. They only briefly fanned at the entrance then stopped. To me that says ‘no queen’. Meanwhile a few hundred bees were fanning at the mother hive entrance. So that’s twice now this hive has swarmed and the bees have returned to the hive. I’m not complaining- just hope they stop doing it soon :wink:

I think you can bank on the swarm not having a queen Jack, it is the only possible that I can think of that makes sense. So then we have to wonder why it is happening, is the hive simply overcrowded, maybe. But then why aren’t they just bearding outside the hive… When it happens again, and considering it is Spring time, it will happen again, try putting the swarm into an 8 frame brood box rather than a nuc box.
I have stopped using nuc boxes up here because within a few days the bees have absconded, maybe about 20% abscond. Since I have used 8 frame boxes absconding hasn’t happened. I figure the extra space makes them happy to stay.
Jeff says a frame of brood given to a swarm will make them stay, and I agree that it helps, but I think the extra space helps too.
Cheers Jack

if a swarm is big enough I always use an 8 frame box as a very large swarm will always abscond from a nuc. This time the swarm was a perfect size for the Nux- but they decided to go home. The hive they come from should have a lot of room as I have put the flow super on and I replaced 4 of the brood frames only 3 weeks ago. It isn’t berding either though activity is very high. It’s just acting weird I guess- i will have to keep an eye to see what it does next.

I’m kind of glad I didn’t use a frame of brood as I prefer that they went home- but that is a great trick and possibly would have held these bees as they would have the makings of a new queen and some brood to look after and keep them happy.

It’s later in the afternoon here and the bees have settled back into the mother hive as if nothing happened.

I would say the swarm definitely didn’t have a queen with them, but as to why they would have swarmed without a queen I will let that pass thru to the wicket keeper for an explanation for us both.
Over to someone like Jeff for his wisdom.


Hi Jack, sometimes bees do a practice swarm. It’s likely they’ll do a serious swarm the following day.

You can prevent swarming by doing preemptive swarm control measures. In doing so, take the brood frames containing the most sealed brood. That puts a bit of a stop to the population increase. Also take the split away, you don’t want any of the bees returning to the parent hive.

You already know my strategy for finding the queen in a swarm. I use a fame of brood containing mostly young larvae. The queen will normally be found on the brood frame shortly after capture. Lots of young larvae that needs nursing will insure the swarm stays put in the majority of cases.


yeah, that’s what has me stumped about this hive- I already removed half the brood frames after it swarmed for real a few weeks ago- I took out huge frames of fully capped brood- giving it four fresh foundations to build. I also added a super for even more room. It already did one ‘practice swarm’ last week and at that time I looked inside and saw one young queen and one queen cell (which i murdered).

I didn’t realise the frame of brood to a swarm thing was also to help locate the queen, that’s good to know- I just thought it was to hold the swarm and give them eggs in case they were queenless.

The re-run of the the swarm without a queen is what has stumped me, I haven’t seen that one before. I have heard lots of theories about where a queen is found in a cluster but my hunch is that she is likely there somewhere. :laughing: A frame of brood is a great bait to draw her out. Maternal instincts will always take over.

I am 95% certain for the first practice swarm at least that there was no queen. You could see it by the swarms behavior- when they formed a cluster it had two separate lumps and was kind of stretched out. They only stayed there for maybe 15 minutes before all flying back into the hive. Also the bees were not fanning in the cluster- only some bees back at the mother hive were fanning at the entrance to get all the others to come back. The swarm today formed more of a cluster: but I think that was just because they landed were the primary big swarm from 4 weeks ago was- they could still smell the queen pheromone there (it’s amazing how potent and persistent the pheromone must be- it has rained since that time a few times yet the bees zeroed in with 100% accuracy on the same spot). After about half an hour I think they realised there was no queen and went back home where they commenced fanning like crazy at the entrance ushering everyone back home.

I made a few videos- if I get time I will put them on youtube and link them here.

One interesting thing I have noticed is that when one hive swarms- it excites other hives nearby and a lot of bees from those hives come out and start looking a bit smarmy too before settling down. Also the hive that swarms has a distinct smell- a bit like the alarm pheromone but different. Swarms sure are exciting when they are on the wing- filling the entire sky with a very loud buzzing. Maybe the bees from my hive just have a taste for all the excitement…

Sorry, I am a bit late to this conversation. Not much I can add except to laugh … HaHa! … I get this happening to me all the time… 9 or 10 days after an inspection or brood management, they swarm.
I have just returned from spending time with a commercial beekeeper in Narrandera and Griffith, it was great to check out the almonds and citrus, his hives are now being moved off on Canola. Swarming is something he struggles to deal and leaves empty boxes out just in case. His management practise has been used for 50 years, he uses 9 frames of brood in a 10 frame box and replaces 2 x frames of old comb every few weeks 3 frames in from each side. It doesn’t guarantee that the bees won’t swarm but according to him, it prevents a lot of swarming. Bees can get unsettled easily during swarming and I have noticed that Swarm Commander will confuse them into to thinking the queen has relocated and thus split the swarm, some will return and they may no longer recognise the swarm queen outside the hive.


Hi Jack remember what I said yesterday “in the majority of cases”. It’s a kind of disclaimer. Some colonies are more proned to swarming than others. In the majority of cases, my bees don’t think about swarming until the honey super is full of bees & overflowing into the lid. There is always exceptions to the rule. Some people say that first year queens don’t swarm, I don’t agree with that. I think if a colony wants to swarm bad enough, they’ll encourage her to lay in the queen cells. That could be why we see larval food in queen cells without egs. The bees trying to encourage the queen to lay in them - is my guess.

well- next day- swarmed again. caught again- this time I used my patented bee vacuum as they were embedded in a little succulent plant- will they stay? Who knows… pesky bees. They are not acting like a normal swarm and don’t form a perfect cluster. Multiple queens? No queen?

Jack, I’m sure the bee vac works beautifully. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, use the frame of brood in that type of situation. Just lean the frame next to the bees. It doesn’t even need to be upright. Maternal instincts will drive the bees onto the frame. After about 20 minutes, place that frame into a brood box. If the queen is on that frame, most times she will be, the rest of the bees will march into the hive. To answer your questions: Most times they stay. To avoid them taking off, take the capture box to over 5k’s away. Multiple queens? No queen? If the swarm has no queen, they’ll simply make a new one provide the worker brood is young enough for that purpose.

I never ever look for the queen in a swarm, because I always use brood when catching them.


I’m not sure how you see or catch a swarm from your own hive… unless it’s the weekend… and you’re in the garden near the hive…
Oh for the lotto life…

Jeff- I know- I know- but my problem is I can’t always access a frame of brood when I want one. Today I looked into two other hives to see if I could get a frame of brood- one is queenless and the other has a virgin queen who hasn’t started laying just yet. I have one other potential hive but it has two supers on it and it’s a pain to fish out a frame of eggs on demand. Other times I have nucs that are there waiting to be raided and it is easy- just not right now.

However- tomorrow I will be doing exactly that dealing with all these problematic hives I suddenly have. Adding frames of eggs here and there which I will get from another apiary I have not too far away.

@skeggley very true- the entire thing is very dramatic but only takes 10 to 20 minutes- if no-one sees it happen it could be easy to miss that it ever did. regular inspections are kind of mandatory for urban beekeepers this time of year, and you can easily tell if a hive has swarmed if you look inside after the event. I am lucky in that I work from home many days a week- today I was supposed ot be away checking hives in the hills but it was raining so I cancelled- otherwise I would have missed the entire thing. Wasn’t expecting a swarm today as it is cold and drizzling. But the bees took a small break in the weather and immediately swarmed.

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Here is a video of today’s swarm for your viewing pleasure :


Hi Jack, I don’t think I’ve ever had a colony coming out of winter with 2 honey supers on them. I rarely have 2 honey supers on a colony at the best of times. I’m constantly reducing colonies to 1 brood - 1 honey super. Accessing frames of brood is never a problem in those circumstances. Also managing the brood is much easier with only one honey super to remove.

I thought I’d pass that on. It might help others.

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actually- normally neither do I - and in this case it is just two ideals so really about 1 full depth. I whacked them on because the spring build up has been so rapid and that hive was booming.

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