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Not in the textbooks


Loving my flow hive, package went in last oct and now my girls are going great guns. I attempted some swarm prevention as they were looking rather crowded. Swapped out a brood box frame full of honey with an empty frame about a week ago. At that time there was lots of brood capped and uncapped, the queen was sighted and I had no queen cells or queen cups. Now 2 days ago the bees have swarmed (I assume since half of my bees are gone). I go in yesterday to inspect and there is one queen cup only at the top of a brood frame. No queen sighted and a lot less bees. All healthy active and happy, still have capped and uncapped brood!
My question I should this - if the queen had swarmed then they should have prepped queen cells but there aren’t any! I’ll inspect agin in 6 days and look for signs of them raising a new queen but my questions are these:
Has anyone seen a hive swarm without prepping a new queen? If she’s just died I could understand but my bees wouldn’t have left the hive in that case!
How many days developmentally is their window for raining a queen from previously laid eggs?
How many days setback is a swarm generally? I only ask because they were filling the flow frames in front of my eyes and I was getting so excited about our first tapping.
Oh, that’s the other strange thing, they didn’t take any honey. My stores are the same and I thought they would have filled up before swarming?


What you are describing here is known to myself - and others locally - as an emergency evacuation. An event of concern as often there is no apparant reason. And in your case it could be so the reason is staring
at you but experience (lack) denies you the vision to assess and report.
Don’t sweat it, time will fix all that.
In your report I do not see anything that hasn’t been done by others with
no ill effect. I would only comment in respect of removing/replacing
stores frames in brood chambers in that the safest way - not the only way - is to place your replacement frames at positions #4 and #6, preserving the bees interest in owning a central core of viable brood. They will draw faster at those positions and still warm brood at the extents.

What to do now is reduce the hive space to accommodate the bee numbers.
Do that and leave them bee, they will sort queen rearing.

The “swarm setback” time is maybe as wide as 60days depending on how
many bees vacated. That window would include two full cycles of brood after the queen cells are built.

Myths are difficult if not impossible to address as usually it does not end well. Try these;
Programmed bees in a swarm do indeed consume stores before leaving, panic swarms not so much. Programmed bees [b] may[/B] swarm with the original queen after the colony builds queen cells, equally they may not. Panic swarms definitely will not. Programmed bees [b] may[/B] go with a virgin queen as a caste swarm, equally they may not, waiting till a new queen is mated and then leaving. That leaves the colony queenless and no viable eggs/larvae to raise yet another lot of queens. Colony dies.

What is most definitely set in stone is a colony will not swarm without a queen. What that means for those unsure about results of manipulations is to always deploy a queen restrictor at the entrance for at least a week after doing the work. Those premade tools are a very important piece of kit, for any apiarist.



What you are also describing could be accidently not seeing the queen-cells during the last inspection.


Thanks so much for your reply Bill. A panic swarm would certainly explain the situation. I have been looking for information on it and can’t find much online. What kinds of conditions would create an emergency swarm? The hive is low in SHB with no other signs of disease, the only odd thing is that at that inspection before last when I sighted the queen, she fell off the frame onto the grass, I popped her back in the brood box and she seemed to be moving well - bit of a shock for her though? And great advice on the frame swap position. I took frame one but put the new frame in position 2 - right in with the brood would have been better for sure - lessons for next season. The weather is awesome here and the air is floral. My girls are out foraging this morning and I think they’ll be fine. Next weeks inspection will tell


Hey :blush: New to this BK game for sure but I did specifically look for cells given the time of year and didn’t see any cups or cells, that’s why I was so confused that they did swarm and I still don’t have any cells ( only one cup) the day after swarming. I would also like to know if there would be identifiable remnants of queen cells if they had existed prior? That’d be a clue for me as to what happened


I’m not sure what some of the above is about…

But, are you sure they have swarmed? Perhaps you initial investigations were on dull days when the bees weren’t flying so much and the last one was during the heat of the day when all the foragers were out and about. And, as @Red_Hot_Chilipepper says, you may just not have noticed the Q. Many of us don’t much of the time!

So often people don’t even notice the difference in bee volume when their swarms have actually swarmed!


Yeah Kylie… roughly what is your latitude, I am @18South.
No… dropping her wouldn’t have worried her or the bees, we have all done far worse (rough handling). Some of mine past have missed a chainsaw by <------that----> much, picking up their skirts they run off to another section of comb! :smiley:
The fact you have an isolated cup untouched - and not a collective - says all was “normal” up until the swarm formed. Even at this stage you would see where queen cells had been as the edges of the chewed down castle(s) would still be present, today.

As to cause, Kylie?
It is likely other factors you are not aware of were (are?) at play and your intervention within that stores area of the broodchamber was the final straw. But that is not a fault, as such.
As some measure of comparison I regularly force bees beyond the excluder by taking frames at #8+#9 and #1 and put them above the excluder replacing #4+#6+8 with either drawn comb or newly built foundation frames. It sure peeves them, so I also apply the restrictor, partly
to change their mind about moving out, or doing something else beyond the new frames, and partly to deny drones re-entry to the colony.
Regardless of your latitude it is paramount to get numbers back up.
If above Lat.28N this could be a battle, to maybe pointless.



Thanks Bill, my latitude is 34.8502° S, 150.7416° E. I’ve learned some great lessons for next season and advice from all of you has been much appreciated x


Hi Paul,
Being new my observations are a little obsessive. My flow super was bustling and the edge flow frame seen through the panel was well serviced by bees, then empty, it’s like my flow super was just emptied overnight. Having said that, every time I’m with the hive I find things I think I should have paid more attention to. I also usually spot the queen whenever I inspect and may have just missed her but I think she’s gone - I could be wrong and that would explain the lack of queen cells. Next week will tell, I’m crazy busy researching what a queenless hive looks like in case that’s what I have…


Yep…even experienced beekeepers do that
And while we are talking of queen cells and swarming it’s said that the swarm usually goes when the first queen cell is capped. Not always and sometimes they go before capping cells. Clear as mud


Kylie, do you shake all the bees off the brood frames when inspecting. If you don’t the you WILL miss QCs


I’m sure this happened to us a few weeks ago when we missed queen cells and the bees swarmed. I am very well read, but the experience is lacking - but we are learning :).

We did a full inspection but did not get the bees off the frame. I am scared we will hurt the queen if we shake and miss her. Is it essential to ensure the queen is not on the frame before shaking? Also, would brushing be ok?




… nobody can know who is and who isn’t listening to the OP but it sure is
looking like a thread diversion is happening along tired old lines - queen spotting.
It is not rocket science, resist over-thinking the excercise.
Looking for any features on a frame is most efficient when done, “scanning”.

Have a box beside the hive, preferably on the entrance side.
Lift frame #1 or #9/10, scan for your object and ONLY that object, spending maybe 10 seconds a side.
Place the frame in the box.
Slide frame #2 or #8/9 away from the frame bundle and lift for a quick scan.
Place that frame in the box.
Slide frame #3 or #7/8 away from the frame bundle and lift for a scan.
Done, place that frame back in the hive at position #1 or #9/10.
Continue for frames 4,#5,#6.
When done, reverse the process.

A queen will be moving as you scan, they run away from your gaze, usually to the other side of the frame but can bury themselves in gaps between comb and frame wood where the comb is not fully drawn. If you do not spot her on the way in you will see her on the way out.
It can happen she is laying as you lift the frame, she will soon move… like
depositeire interuptus :slight_smile:
Try scanning for more than one object at a time and you will make errors.
Repeat the above process for each object you seek using the extra box to store frames removed to make space.
And please do not shake frames doing this, that just makes it so much more difficult AND sets bees into “WTF” mode.



No worries, all good Kylie.
See you in a week or so :slight_smile:



Sometimes they build comb around the queen-cells, especially in foundation-less hives, and the cells blend right in to the comb around it.


Are you saying you can spot every hidden queen cell without taking the bees off the frame? Or have I misunderstood? WTFM can be completely avoided by shaking a frame inside the hive. You just lift the frame a couple of inches and sharply shake down. Most of the bees fall off into the box and you can then take the frame out to look at it


Yes you have to find her


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I do, but not as effectively as I should :smirk:


Thanks everyone for your responses. The collective knowledge has been really great. I am going to conclude that one of three things has happened. Panic swarm without prep of a new queen, I missed the queen cells on inspection and they have swarmed or I can’t count well and they haven’t swarmed at all. There are reasons why each of these does and does not fit the presentation of my hive. But I have learned and had loads of food for thought thank you. When I inspect on Friday I’ll let you all know how the girls are going. My fingers are crossed for fresh pupae, happy bees and experience gained x