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Is my hive overcrowded


Hi. Winter is over in Lake Macquarie. Temp reached 35 today. My bees are all hanging out at the front of the hive - is this an indication that the hive is overcrowded? Or just them trying to cool down? We did an inspection last week the hive is chockers full of bees. The flow frames appeared to be full in the inspection panels but on inspection - the centre of each frame had no honey - outer edges full and capped. I have prepared another brood box ready for a swarm if it happens, but I would prefer to transfer them calmly when the time is right. Problem is I’m not sure when that is. Would appreciate any input. As always thanks.
PS -

BOM. Report says we are in for another cold snap later tonight.


Now is the time to think about swarm prevention. I use a rule of thumb that every colony will swarm during spring.


Bees will exit the hive on warm days, this is normal and not any indication of swarming. Do you have a plan for swarm prevention? A swarm will occur at the time the queen cell is capped or very close to it. On your last inspection did you find any queen cells or the makings thereof? This can be a key indicator.
I would suggest that if you have a box ready, it would be better served to be placed on the other side of your yard in an elevated position, the scouts will find it and direct the swarm to your box instead of the neighbours house or internal wall cavity. As part of spring management we nomally cycle out old brood frames or honey frames from the brood box, once empty these can be used as a lure in your spare hive. Otherwise use a dab of lemongrass oil or swarm commander as the lure. A swarm can happen at a moments notice, 5mins and they will be gone, sometimes 80% of your bees could go with them so it pays to be prepared.
Cheers Rod


Thanks for your advise Jeff and Rodderick. I think as I already have the box ready to go, will place it out there and see how we go. Hard to tell if there were queen cells the comb was so covered with bees. Haven’t disturbed the girls over winter and they were definitely put out at our intrusion. Will check again in a week or two if the bees stay put for that long. Thanks again -always very grateful for this forum and everyone’s generous advise. Will let you know the outcome. Cheers Jude.


Hi Jude, you are most welcome. It’s best to look a bit harder at the brood this time of year, even if you have to shake a few of the bees off. I like to do preemptive swarm control measures. That is to take a nuc from the hive before it actually makes preparation to swarm. That will delay those preparations for a while. @cathiemac successfully did a preemptive swarm control recently in Brisbane.

That takes away the “wait & see” or “keeping my fingers crossed” approach. It puts YOU/US in control.


Thanks Jeff, makes sense, on my job list for this week end. For your interest, Bees very interested in the new brood box, placed in another section of my back yard. Such amazing creatures. Will keep you informed.


You are most welcome. The brood box might catch someone else’s swarm :slight_smile: “Such amazing creatures”. I second that wholeheartedly.


That had crossed my mind. Just checking Jeff, if I have some queen cells, am I better to remove that frame with say two extra frames from the original brood box and place them in the new box. Or do I take the original queen and some extra frames and place in the new box? Thanks Jude.

Regards Jude


Hi Jude, you can do it either way. Especially if you can’t find the queen. I prefer to do it before any eggs or larvae appear in the queen cells. That way, as I see it the bees without the queen will build emergency queen cells. Therefore they will treat them as such. If we allow a colony to continue with swarm cells, they may treat them as such & then swarm. That’s just my line of thinking.

Having said that, whenever I see swarm queen cells, I break every one down while doing the split. Then I allow the queenless part of the split to build emergency queen cells.

I decided this season to take the queen with the split, if ever I discover charged swarm cells.


So sorry this post was written on Tuesday morning, der!! Forgot to hit reply.

Well, we have done our first split @JeffH. yesterday morning. Thanks Jeff for your mentoring here-gave us the confidence to have a go.
We found our queen-decided to keep her in the original box, as she is doing such a great job, seemed a pity to disturb her. Moved over 3xfames to new box - each had quite a few queen cells which had hatched at some time, and lavae, didn’t see eggs, and some honey and pollen and only 1xdrone is obvious. However some drone cells which I hope will hatch shortly.
Have kept an eye on them. There is not much activity, very little foraging. Checked them this morning, they seem busy enough but very docile. Hope all will be good. Have made up some honey water, just to get them established. If they don’t liven up by this evening will place a feeder for a couple of days.

Friday - the girls are still very subdued, able to tend the hive today with no smoke and just a hood and gloves. All the larvae has been capped. At least 5or6 seem to be larger then a drone cell, but not as big as I imagined a queen cell to be. We are now feeding with nectar as they are not leaving the hive at all. Have also blocked off the opening to approx 30mm. Will keep an eye on them hope all will be well with our girls. The other hive is flourishing. Now I will hit reply!!


Hi Jude, well done. I neglected to tell you to move the nuc a few k’s away. Sorry about that. The field bees have gone back to the original hive. The nuc will not have much activity until the new foraging bees start. What I like to do is add a couple of frames from the honey super into the split so that the brood has plenty of protection. SHB is one of the concerns as well as warmth.

If not frames from the honey super, at least shake some extra bees into the split before placing the lid on.

Keep an eye on it to make sure that the brood has plenty of bees to keep it warm. You might have a lot of recently emerged bees in there now, that will be good. Thanks to @Dawn_SD, correcting someone else, it’s “recently emerged”. I’m sure I’ve typed “recently hatched” many times.

Good luck with it Jude, the bad news is: You might have to do another split before the season is out, depending on how quickly they build up again.


Thanks Jeff, will let you know how it all turns out. Cheers Jude.


Just to add to @JeffH’s helpful comments, if you don’t see queen cells in a couple of days, you may need to add a frame of brood which you know has eggs or very young larvae in it. They can’t make a new queen from a larva which is more than 3 days old from hatching (6 days from egg laying) and the nucleus would die out in a couple of months. The 3 day larvae look like a tiny skinny letter C in the bottom of the cell. Once they start to look fat and chunky, they are too old.


Hello everyone contributing to this discussion. Maybe someone can add a little wisdom to my situation that sounds similar in some ways. This is my first hive started with a nucleus November last year. I just returned home after a month away to find my hive with all Flow frames full and capped. More importantly, the brood box was a buzz with action. I found quite a few queen cells on most frames, capped and open, loads of drones, plenty of capped and open brood and stacks of bees. One exciting moment was hearing a piping queen! Do I understand correctly that she would be a virgin? If so, would that mean the old queen has already swarmed (I couldn’t find her, but then I rarely have since I got her November last year)? I thought I could not wait, so I did a split into two five frame nucs. I had two frames of capped honey from last season so I put one in each nuc along with two frames of capped brood and a frame of pollen and honey each. That left one spot for a feeder frame each. I left the Flow super on the original hive. I shook off a frame each into the nucs to boost numbers from the flow frames.

That was two days ago, and there is plenty of pollen and nectar coming into the original hive. The nucs are much quieter with just a few bees coming and going. I can hear plenty of buzzing in them. I have a recently installed Broodminder in the original hive and they are maintaining temperature very well. I did not destroy any of the queen cells, thinking that the emerging virgins will sort it out. Then I guess I have to wait until they do their mating flights and hopefully survive. I have read that I should not disturb the nucs for several weeks to allow the virgin to mate and start laying. Apparently if I disturb them before she does this, the workers may kill her.

I might be over thinking everything. What do you suggest is the best course of action from this point on. Also, I’m certainly open to constructive criticism over what I’ve done so far. I’m eager to learn best practices.


… leave them bee.
I did two on Wednesday last. I’ll let you know when I check mine :->



Hi Mike, The reason for little activity from the nucs is that all of the field bees as well the bees that have done orientation flights have or are returning to the original hive. The bees in the original hive may still decide to swarm if you left more than one queen cell. Make sure that there is sufficient bees left in the nucs to protect & keep the brood warm. A good strategy is to take the nucs 4 or 5 k’s away so that the bees remain with the nucs.

Depending on where you are, but where I am, I never bother with a frame of honey or feeding nucs during spring. Remember that a swarm only starts off with as much honey as they can hold themselves. They swarm during periods when they are optimistic about being able to build up a hive with nothing more than they can carry.

From our (beekeepers in general) point of view, technology makes it convenient for us to be able to check on the 7 day weather outlook. That way we know whether it’s necessary to feed or not. Depending on the circumstances.


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Thank you, JeffH. I don’t have the option to move the nucs. I figured the nurse bees I moved with the brood frames will stay put until the brood emerges, then the nurses can become foragers. Until then, there’s no food coming in, figured I would keep them supplied. All seems good this morning. I guess it’s a case of wait and see.


No worries Mike, good luck with that. If you are in an area where SHB are a problem, the brood can get infested if the bee numbers are down to just the nurses. Something to always bear in mind, especially when it’s hot & humid.

Another strategy would be to close the bees up for 3 days & place a branch in front of the hive so that the older bees will re orientate & stay put once you open the hive again. Make sure there is ample shade & ventilation with that technique