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Queen cups, brood in outer frames but not in the inners

Hi all

We’re fairly new to all of this, had our flowhive about 18 months, but due to smoke from the bushfires last year there was very little activity in our hive. We did as little as possible during that so as not stress them more than they already were.

We just did an inspection and found 2 queen cups (both on the face, but close to the edges). We didn’t see any of those last year, and we’re not sure if there was an egg or not in there. Also, the inner frames are fairly empty but the outer frames are packed with larvae and brood. Neither of us could see eggs, but that may be due to the time of day (we can check this later).

There are a ton of bees so we’re worried about swarming. But we also couldn’t find the queen. The emptiness in the inner frames makes us think possibly we lost our queen? Not sure if this matters, but there is some honey on the outer frames, but nowhere near like late last year, and none of it appears to be capped.

We’ve been doing a lot of reading but have come to no conclusions. Should we open the hive again in a few days? Or is that a bad idea? We were told to check it every 2-3 weeks in spring.

Please help!
Lisa and Ben

Hi & welcome to the forum. It sounds a bit disturbing that the inner frames are fairly empty. I would assume that the outer frames containing brood would only be on one side because it would be strange to see outer frames on both sides containing brood while the inner frames are empty.

Can you take some photos of the brood to show us? Do you have a local mentor?

I doubt if your colony is going to swarm if the inner frames are fairly empty.

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Hi Lisa and Ben, Welcome to the forum. I am located in Theodore in Canberra. Also a fairly new beek. Like @JeffH suggested it would be great to see some photos of your frames.

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It could also be that there was a very large brood nest and the inner frames have already emerged and the queen has swarmed, and they have remained empty because the queen has gone.
There could still appear to be lots of bees as often queens lay everywhere before swarming and although she may take half the colony with her, much brood can emerge in the following days. One frame of brood is three frames of bees. Check carefully for old or active queen cells.

This is just one other possibility, of course. Are the larvae big or small? If the larvae are small or if eggs are present I would discount this as a possibility.


Hi Jeff and KSJ

It’s the first time we didn’t take pics, argh! We’ll have another go at opening it tomorrow at midday and see if we can see any eggs, unless you think it’s okay to open again today? This is probably all our fault. We thought it was too cold/rainy to open them up prior to this.

Thanks for the advice, we’re worried it may be an ‘already swarmed’ situation. The queen cups are very fresh, white wax, and we didn’t see any old queen cells. But there were so many bees we weren’t thorough.

In the 8 frames - two most inner frames had just a bit of brood, otherwise empty, the further out you go the more full the frames become. There is literally only one frame of uncapped honey on the ends (we call these 1 & 8 frame), then 2 & 7 frame are completely packed with brood, and larvae ranging from young to very mature, close to being capped we think.

We don’t have a mentor, but we can ask the guy in who taught the class we did prior to setting up. Better safe than sorry.

Will send pics when we open tomorrow,

Hi Lisa, with that in mind, it would appear that the inner frames were probably full of eggs & young larvae. Those white queen cups could be the bees preliminary preparations to swarm.

You did the right thing by not opening the hive while it’s cold & rainy. Bare in mind however that we’re well past the shortest day, therefore the bees will be itching to swarm, especially if they’re finding plenty of nectar & pollen.

I would suggest to open up again today, if it’s possible, weather permitting, for the purpose of taking photos.

If you have an led torch, they are handy for spotting eggs & or young larvae.

Good luck with that, cheers

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Hi Lisa, Sounds like you have a similar scenario to myself. 3 weeks ago I did my first spring inspection and found 3 queen cups, 3 capped queen cells in my hive. Couldn’t find my queen (she was marked) and there were no new eggs, but most frames had capped brood, lots of bees and very full of honey. My mentor suggested I give them more room, so added an 8 frame super with blanks and wax foundation. Then Friday, 17/9 the colony had other ideas and decided to swarm. Lucky I was home, went to check on them and they had landed on top of the hive roof. I contacted my mentor and he assisted with moving the very small swarm into a nuc box with a new virgin queen. Both the original coloony and the nuc are doing really well. Here are some photos of the queens cells and one where the queen has emerged. Also of the small swarm.
Kind regards, Karen


The last photo is a lovely photo of an emerged queen cell. The cell is opened by the queen from the inside and the outcome is what looks like a hinged lid. Sometimes, an emerged queen or more likely workers will attack a yet-to-emerge virgin queen, but in that case they go in through the side.

I think its unlikely that the swarm you saw was the prime swarm. Its more likely a secondary, perhaps accompanied by the virgin queen from the cell in the photo.
Has a queen emerged from the cell at the bottom of the frame in your second photo?

Download and have a read of this booklet. Its the best guide to your situation.


Thanks so much to both of you! We couldn’t do it yesterday due to work demands, but got it done just now.

Jeff, it looks like you’re right, those inner frames weren’t empty. They now have a lot of newly hatched larvae coming through, and we can see more capped larvae happening, as well as new workers/drones emerging. Still not able to see eggs, but the comb is super dark. The torch definitely helped spotting the younger larvae though, thanks for that idea! It was hard enough to get space on the frame to see anything under all the masses. It feels like we’ve had a population explosion over the last two days so very worried now.

We found 3 queen cups this time, but it was nigh on impossible to see if there was anything in there. Still no queen. Ben thinks he saw her, and we’ll attach that pic, but Lisa thinks it’s a drone? Our queen lost her mark just before winter, so we know it has fallen off, but we found her okay then. Of course there were far less bees. We think it is a preparing to swarm situation. Is there any way we can prevent this?

We forgot to add we put our six frame flow super on 2 days ago. Last year we had to do a lot of coaxing, but they are very much into now. It looks like we can only include one image per post as ‘new users’ so we’ve used the one that has a queen cup, the suspect queen, and some older larvae in it.

Let us know if you want a specific example. We have loads of all frames, the queen cups, the ‘emptier’ frames etc.

Thanks, Lisa and Ben

Wow, those are some truly amazing photos, thanks for sharing!

You are correct Lisa. Drones have a hairy rear end like in that photo. Click on images of queen bees. You’ll see lots of examples. Actually @Dawn_SD & I have a queen bee in our profile photos.

There’s a queen cup near the drone. Could you see any egg in it?

All I do to prevent swarming is to do preemptive swarm control splits. That has worked for me so far this season. You can find lots of info on the subject by searching this forum via the magnifying glass.



Thanks Jeff. We tried to see into them but there was just nothing visible. Doesn’t mean an egg or some such isn’t there, clearly we aren’t the best at spotting those.

We spoke to the bloke who ran the course we went to, and he’s suggested bringing a few of the brood frames up into the super, and replacing them with foundation frames. We’ll give that a crack tomorrow and keep a close eye on it.

In the meantime, we’re also thinking of ordering a new brood box, just in case the numbers keep swelling and they need even more room.

If we are forced into a situation of a swarm, we might have to call someone to get them. We don’t have a set up for a new hive unfortunately.

It’s gonna be a long day tomorrow trying to find that queen!
Lisa and Ben

I agree with the advice of your mentor. The only thing I would add is not to put the 3 new frames together unless they are on the outside. If you put them in the middle, checkerboard them so that you don’t segregate the brood by more than one frame.

When you say “just in case the numbers keep swelling”. You will get an idea of how much the numbers will swell by how much brood is in the brood box. That will come with experience. You can regulate the population by removing brood frames yourself.

You don’t need to spend time searching for the queen, unless you have a specific reason to. As long as you see new eggs & or young larvae, you know that she’s there.

Gently shake or brush the bulk of the bees off the 3 frames you place above the QE, making doubly sure that the queen isn’t on them.

Good luck with all that, cheers

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