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Now I'm really confused - artificial split gone wrong?


Ok, this might take a while to explain (i.m in australia)…

13th August - did the first spring check as they were getting active. 1 hive consisting of 2 brood boxes (with a mostly full flow hive on top). Found loads of capped brood and queen cells, saw a larvae present in one of the queen cells. Removed coverboard between flow hive and brood boxes. Sought advice.

15th August - went back in to check progress. Found more developed queen cells and cups. And larvae present. Decided to do an artificial split. Put the existing queen in a 4 frame nuc with capped and uncapped brood, honey, empty brood comb and an empty frame. Replaced frames removed from the main hive with empty frames.

25th August… opened to check for queen cells having hatched. Try to check if there is likely to be virgin swarms cast. In the main hive most of the queen cells had hatched (only two remained capped. Checked on the nuc and found no sign of the queen or eggs or larvae. Concluded I must have lost/killed her in the transfer. I put the frame from the main hive with the two capped queen cells in the nuc (it also had some capped brood on it). At this point my assumption was that there was a virgin queen in the main hive, no queen in the nuc but two queen cells about to hatch.

10th September… opened both to look for signs of laying queens.
Nuc… found a queen with an engorged abdomen. There were a handful of fat larvae on one frame, with some spotted capped brood around them. No capped queen cells but the capped queen cells I had put in were open from the side (not chewed open at the end). Not much honey present.

Main hive… still plenty of honey in the flow frames. The top brood box had a few frames of honey and all empty frames had been fully drawn. There were around 5 queen cups present and a couple of more developed queen cells. The bottom brood box had honey and pollen present. one frame hadn’t been drawn yet. No sign of eggs or larvae (although I’m yet to correctly identify an egg).

I’m assuming 13th was at least 4-6 days after laying eggs in queen cells.
This would make my inspection on 25th 16-18 days, which matches finding all but 2 queen cells hatched.
Then my inspection today would 32-34 days… so eggs should definitely be present and there should be larvae too.

Does this mean my main hive queen has failed (it’s been very variable weather, so not heaps of opportunities for mating flights)? Does the presence of queen cells suggest she has started laying and I just failed to identify eggs? If so, are they still planning to swarm?

Does the presence of capped brood and damaged queen cells in the nuc box mean my old queen wasn’t dead and she’s still there? If so, why isn’t she laying copiously as she was prior to her being moved? If she was dead, could the capped brood be brood I transferred that got chilled (wouldn’t they have removed it by now if that were the case?


Hi Dunc,

I’m bumping this hoping someone knowledgeable replies!

I will say that I live in the Perth hills and the patchy weather has definitely slowed my bees down and we lost a feral hive in a log last month after a couple of freezing wet days!
We have a feral tree hive and our own purchased one left. In the last couple of weeks our orchard, lavender and a million weeds have started blossoming and yet there are around two bees per tree collecting nectar and pollen. I think because of all the rain and cold they have had a hard time expanding. I haven’t managed to look in my hive for a couple of weeks but when I did I saw that they are drawing out more comb but the box was not as full of bees as I would have expected. My bee maths tells me to give it another couple of weeks for all the nectar they have Brought in to translate into a population explosion, but I will go in and have a look when we get a nice day (not looking like today!).

Hopefully someone can help you with the specifics!




Actually they get capped on day 8, so on day 6 the larvae is really big. but let’s say it was a month ago, that the egg was laid. It would have emerged 16 days after that (let’s say around the 26th) and should be laying about 14 days after that (around the 9th) but the drop dead date (the date at which she will not lay workers anymore if it takes that long to mate) is 21 days after she emerged which is the 16th (five days from now). A frame of eggs and open brood is good insurance in the meantime…



Thanks Mike. I guess I’m being too impatient. I’m waiting for a good weather day to go back in again.

If the split is able to provide, I’ll put some eggs across back into the main hive, if there is still no sign of her. Otherwise, I’ll try and get a friend to give me a frame.


So an update…

I checked on the bees today (14 Sept) and the queen in the main hive is now laying! Woohoo (there was a little capped brood and a fair bit of larvae). I still haven’t managed to identify an egg. with or without glasses.

I still have a couple of questions though.

i) There are about 6 or 7 queen cells (cups and uncapped larger cells) in the main hive. I couldn’t see any larvae in them and so I’m not sure whether they are the previous swarm cells that haven’t been dismantled yet or if they are new cells being used to prepare for a swarm. The nuc still has the two queen cells that I transferred into there, so I’m confident these ones have not been dismantled. How do I tell whether the ones in the main hive are being used or are obsolete?

ii) The brood quantity in the nuc is low and patchy. Is this likely because it’s a smaller colony and so laying too many would stretch their resources or is there likely something up with the queen?


They definitely have plenty of space. They are drawing new comb and have a couple of empty frames to work on.The flow hive is on top and has honey (50%) and empty cells.


Can you keep the updates coming please? It’s really interesting. And would like to know what happens with both hive & nuc


Here are the queen cells that i believe are old ones not being used…


Duncan, if you’re having trouble finding eggs, what about taking some close ups of the frames, perhaps with some light behind, then you can look for them in photo? Can enlarge to see closer?


I think I’ll try that.

This last inspection was really good in terms of not upsetting the bees and so I felt ok setting the frame aside to photograph. I was surprised how good a picture my phone took.


Nice & sharp, bet you’ll find some! Can you find a helper to take them while you hold frame even?


Those look like more than just queen cups. They look like a cell. I don’t see a larvae in them, but I’m guessing there is one…


Am I best to cut one out to check if there is a larvae?

With the previous swarm cells I had, the larvae were pretty obvious. I had a good look into these with the sun over my shoulder and couldn’t see anything.


One word. Flashlight.


So i went in today and the queen cells had not grown and i used a torch to double check and there were no larvae.

Also got a good photo of the queen in the split…


There are lots of uncapped worker larvae in your second photo, and as you did your split on 15th August, you must have a laying queen there.

Very pretty queen in your third photo! :blush:


For next time… would it make sense to cut out the queen cells once the virgin queens have hatched, so that I can tell more easily if they are building new queen cells, or just leave them be?


I went in again today and there were still plenty of queen cells but no larvae in them. I cut them all out so that i will know next time.

It looked like a pair of queen cells had been built on a fresh frame of comb and so i think these were new but still no sign of life in them. Do they ever build queen cells and not use them?


All the time. Also known as “play cups” :blush:


Or lets play a prank on the guy in the big white suit cups.