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I need some advice dealing with a split/artifical swarm- Please help me!

Ok so I mentioned on another thread that coming into spring Mum’s hive was showing possible signs of imminent swarming- and/or supercedure:


besides the forum we asked many experienced beekeepers at out bee society about what if anything to do. Unfortunately the many varied and all sensible sounding answers we received left us confused.

Anyhow today we took action- and I hope we did the right thing- and if it wasn’t the right thing- at least not a huge mistake:

We inspected the hive to check on the queen cups- we noted that there were not as many as 7 days ago- and those that were there were uncapped and seemingly empty. This is where we possibly made a mistake- as we went ahead with our plan to do a small split regardless.

Our hive has a single brood box and the flow super on top. It is absolutely bursting at the seams with bees, and the flow super has put on a lot of weight in just the last week- there is a good deal of capped honey visible at the ends- and much more uncapped nectar. The bood box is packed with bees capped and uncapped brood- quite a few drones- a lot of pollen stores.

Today we removed three frames with a mix of honey, pollen, capped and uncapped brood- and many bees from the faces of the comb. We also shook in quite a lot of extra bees (two cupfuls at least). We placed these three frames in a five frame nuc ox with two additional empty frames with starter strips of beeswax installed.

When we inspected the main hive we did not see the queen. We checked the frames we removed and could not see her- we think she stayed in the main hive but cannot guarantee it 100%. Also I did not specifically see larvae or eggs today despite looking- though I did see a lot of larvae 7 days ago when we last inspected. In the main hive we replaced the three frames we removed with fresh frames.

I took the five frame nuc split away with me to my house- and I now have it in its new position with the entrance closed- as evening comes on. The bees are trapped inside.

OK- that’s what we did- now my question is where to from here?

I assume tomorrow morning I open up the entrance and let the split bees see their new home? Might they all fly off? What will happen? How long do I leave them be before I do an inspection?

I am worried about one issue: Queens. We now have no proof that either hive has a queen. We are not 100% that there are eggs either- though the assumption is there are. Both hives have some empty queen cups.

How long should I wait before looking into my new little split colony?

We plan to check the main hive again within 10 days to ensure that there are uncapped larvae and eggs visible.

Should I buy a queen (if I can find one) for my little split? Does anyone know where I can get a queen at this time of year? I am in Adelaide. Will it be an issue to find a queen? Should I wait first and see how the bees go making one? They had several partially formed queen cups that went with them. there were enough bees to easily cover all of the frames…

Any other thoughts, comments, anything- I am really keen to hear what people think. Please let me know if you have any questions? Did we screw up? Did we do OK? In between?

Just to reiterate- we are early in Spring in Adelaide- the main hive shows every sign of being very healthy: zero signs of diseases, literally bursting at the seams with bees, bringing in lots of pollen and nectar. The only concern is we didn’t see the queen or eggs- though both are likely there- we just lack the experience and were somewhat panicky about the whole splitting process… this was our first split.


Hi Jack, I’ll try & answer the first few questions. First of all you can open the split tonight. The bees will stay together with the brood. They have no reason to abscond unless the queen is with them, however I’m confident they’ll stay regardless. Take a look in 3-4 days at the frames to see if any queen cells are being constructed from young larvae or fertile eggs. Forget about the queen cups. DON’T look into buying a new queen. Now if you see new queen cells being constructed, you know that the queen is still in the mother hive. There is always a slight possibility that you inadvertently killed the queen like I did the other day. In that case you will see new queen cells in both hives. However, whichever colony has the new queen cells, just sit back & let the strongest, most vigorous queen be the new queen. I’m doing a lot of that myself right now. You’ll need to check on them again in about 4 weeks time. If you don’t see any eggs or larvae, just slip in another frame of brood containing very young larvae or fertile eggs. No need to view the actual queen. You can give yourself a lot of anxiety for no reason. Good luck with that Jack, cheers


Thanks a million Jeff!! I feel better already- and it’s good to know I can open the hive tonight too. I am going to put an entrance reducer on .

We did see the queen 7 days ago when we inspected but she scuttled out of view- there is a chance we knocked her off but I doubt it.

I’ll update on the progress of both hive and split- - and forget that 34$ queen I was just about to order for now…


@JeffH I just snuck out without suit or smoker and gently removed the chock from the entrance- and I put in a small 2" reducer. Bees immediately crawled out buzzing all the while- in the dark I saw at least ten walk up to towards the roof of the hive where they were milling about. I hope they can find their way back in… I suppose they might wander around outside overnight then find their way back in the light of day?

One other question if you are still up: I have two cats- and they have never lived with a beehive before. Is it possible they might get curious about the buzzing box and get themselves into strife? Once bitten twice shy they say- but if you get bitten a hundred times all at once the first time? Can bees even sting cats through fur? I suppose they go for the eyes and nose?

Good morning Jack, the bees will be fine, they wont get lost during the night. The only problem at night is they are drawn to lights. A few bees can fly towards lights & buzz around them most of the night & be found on the ground half dead the next morning. They don’t seem to be attracted to led lights. I’m sure your cats will be fine. I haven’t heard of any cat vs bee disaster stories yet.

The other day a new beekeeper told me how his town house neighbor complained about his bees being attracted to his/her outside lights. I advised him to simply turn the hive around & put some sort of added barrier so the bees couldn’t see the light at night.


Once again- thanks Jeff!

Today the bees are buzzing all around happily- already collecting pollen and bringing it back to the Nuc. So far so good. They are not even angry!

I have been feeding them a little honey with water (50/50)- there was some honey stores on the three frames I put in but not a huge amount. They had quite a pit of pollen.

My cats seem fine- so far they don’t seem to have noticed the beehive. I read a little and found that bees do indeed sting cats: they burrow right down into the fur to do so. Once that happens cats generally learn their lesson…

Hi Jack, you’re welcome. If the 3 frames you took were mostly sealed brood covered in bees, that will turn into 6 frames of bees in no time. When I do my preemptive swarm control, that’s what I remove, the frames with the most sealed brood. Keep an eye on what they’re bringing in, just make sure they have enough honey to keep them going. I never have to worry too much about that where I am. On the odd occasion I’ll pour a bead of honey on the top bars just to keep them going for a day or so. Good luck with your cats, cheers

cheers Jeff- the thing is I have some spare honey and this nuc is in my back yard so I can easily feed them honey all day long if I want. Today I have given them a few tablespoons mixed with water. They are lapping it up. There is much orientation flying going on- havn’t seen any pollen going in yet but I asume they are getting their bearings first. Once they head off there are flowers just everywhere. As you may have heard adelaide has had a very wet end to winter and start of spring. We had pretty much a quarter of annual rainfall in just a few days! There is talk that this good soaking of the sub soil will result in very good flowering of trees for several years to come.

Given that I have honey to spare- and don’t mind regular feeding- could it be a bad thing? Could the additional honey help them produce comb faster?

On another note- have you ever fed bees flour? there are these odd videos from the US of bees absolutely going crazey for ‘flour baths’:

Hi Jack, I’ve never heard of bees eating flour before. I think I’d leave that one alone. The extra honey you feed to your bees will only help them. The only time I fed bees with a feeder, they swarmed soon after. That was probably my fault, it was a long time ago. I think the best advice I could offer in regards to feeding is to not feed them with a rapid feeder.

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Hi good luck with swarm. Just thought would mention in ref to your cats, not a cat but my dog was stung on his paw last summer by a bee feeding I think on dandelions, happened twice 7 second time he collapsed & had to rush to vet. So maybe just be aware that even if they don’t take great interest in bee hive they may still have interactions…I also had a dog that used to chase & eat the bees covering the lemon tree each spring. She was stung multiple times, mouth swollen & straight back for more. We did try to stop her, but they have to go outside at some stage & she was through or over any fencing we put round it…strange but gorgeous animal!

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One of the cats jumped under the hive today- I am going to have to keep an eye on them. Hard to control though, cats.

The nuc has settled in- I watched them this morning they were still orienting- none bringing in pollen- about midday I saw the first balls of pollen go in- and then after that streams of pollen were disappearing into the hive. very happy to finally have my first backyard hive.

also today heard of a large swarm a beekeepr has collected- that has my name on it- so soon I will have two hives here which will be good insurance- I should be able to get a frame of eggs from the swarm if the split fails to make a queen. All’s looking good.


Day 8 after the split- first inspection:

SUCCESS!! The small 3 frame split was given two new frames and placed in nuc hive. I inspected for the first time today: there were plenty of bees still. First frame I look at was one of the empty frames I put in- it had no new comb on it- next frame the bees had covered half of one face with fresh capped honey! Next frame had some nectar, pollen, still unhatched brood- a few capped drone cells- a very few larvae visible still- and no eggs. 4th frame in: at the bottom of the frame in a little cluster: 3 or 4 brand new fully capped queen cells! Yahoo!

As it was 8 days since the split I assume these cells were only just capped in the last 24 hours- and will therefore hatch in 8 days? There was one other new frame with just a starter strip and the bees had started building comb on it. Everythign looked neat and tidy and healhty- the bees were nicely behaved and bringing in pollen.

As the bees seem to have everything in hand- the plan is to wait for the queens to hatch and fight it out- then wait for the queen to get her maiden flight done before inspecting again.

I assume the fact I found capped queen cells suggest the mother hive- mums hive- still has it’s original queen- and if not- would also have new capped queen cells at the same stage as in the split. So it looks like my first pre-emptive swarm split was a success!

I think we did the right thing- as a local swarm catcher just gave me a swarm (another story- I got 4 new hives in one day last week) and reported that he had caught 20 swarms in the previous ten days. Hopefully we saved mums hive from swarming- and also managed to breed a a new colony based on her queen- which has been a very good little queen.

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Ok- I am now at day 16- I inspected 8 days ago and there were fully capped queen cells- right exactly on schedule. So the queens are due to be born today or tomorrow- and we have very nice sunny weather for the next few days.

I have a question: should I do any inspections this week? By my calculations the queens will be due for their mating flights- around this Saturday. Saturday is forecast to be 27c and sunny- whilst Sunday is forecast to be just 19c- and Monday 14c- the cool weather continues until the following Saturday.

If I am lucky- will my queen/s successfully mate on that Saturday? I have just heard that queens won’t go out on maiden flights unless it is 24C or warmer… ? any thoughts on that? Will one perfect day be enough for the mating?

Should I leave the split alone this week? They seem to be doing fine- bringing in plenty of pollen today. I am curious to look inside- but think I am better off leaving well alone.

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Sounds like you are having a great time and developing a large apiary!

Virgin Queens can be quite skittish. It is better to leave them alone for a few weeks to let them get mated and start laying. At that point, whenever that is, you need to see if she is laying successfully.

I’ve just done something similar and am champing at the bit to get a look inside. But trying not to be hasty…

Good luck!


I’m discovering I have much more to learn about patience & waiting through my bees. I thought I was a patient person…


Hi There, Location - Queensland Australia.
I purchased a Flow Hive last January and put it together over autumn/winter and finally put bees in in October. All seemed well, queen was laying, brood happening, all good… I placed the super on at the end of November, the bees moved in and started filling the gaps, putting in some nectar. 4 weeks later the hive swarmed and so, i learnt the hard way how to catch a swarm. I placed it back into the hive and they settled down, all seemed well. On the 15th of January the hive swarmed again. This time my mentor and I looked further, there were some queen cells which we disposed of. He suggested requeening the hive which we did with a brand new queen the next week. The hive settled in and all was well, the flow supers are 30% capped and plenty of nectar, the brood in the brood box is on track, yesterday they swarmed again !!! What is going on ?? any suggestions ??