Splitting first hive

I got my first hive last year and it came out of the winter in good shape.

I’ve been monitoring activity this spring in anticipation of my first swarm.

Today, I saw multiple uncapped queen cells at the bottom edge of 3 frames.

I’ve leaving on vacation soon and don’t want to lose my swarm.

Here’s what I did, please criticize of this is a bad plan. I’m new and humble.

I shook off the 3 frames and moved them into a deep box along with a couple of other empty frames. I replaced the queen cell frames in the original deep box with empty ones.

Next I added a queen excluder above the original box then put the 3rd deep box, with queen cell frames, on top.

When I return from vacation, I plan to move the 3rd box to a new location which is about 20 feet from the current location. My hope is that there will be a new queen in that box.

Am I thinking about this correctly. Please advise.


Hi Fred, I love your creative approach to problem-solving here.

I believe you are in the clear with that plan. Adding the queen cells above the colony with a QE between I believe will ensure there are enough workers to raise the new queen cells and keep warm, whilst keeping the new and old queen safe from each other. I would also add a couple of frames of honey and pollen on either side of the queen cell frames. A lot of honey is required to consume to build new comb and pollen is needed for the workers to produce royal jelly to feed the new queens (super important for healthy queens).

When relocating one of the splits to the new location 20 feet away, note that you will lose the foragers as they will return to the original location (even if you move the hive at night). This is unless you move the hive 5-7 km away (returning it 3 days later or so), which is beyond the area the foragers have ranged before and be able to recognise objects and find their way ‘home’.

Some people move the split hive straight away to the new location though and put the weaker colony (new split with the queen cells, e.g.) in the original location so as to receive all of the returning foragers. The colony you move to the new location (20 ft), if they’ve got a strong population and forage is available, they should be fine to adapt to the new location with a new generation of foragers.

I’m assuming the queen in the top box will be trapped in there until you return?
I agree with Bianca on the subject of honey stores.
It depends on how long you’re away for too. Eg. The new queen needs to get out and mate. I wonder if the new and old queen would sit either side of the QX trying to kill each other? :thinking:

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The colony has the desire to swarm. You’ve got to remove that desire, otherwise the colony will produce more queen cells below the QE. You may come back from vacation to find that the colony has swarmed, with a virgin queen above the QE, that hasn’t been able to mate. I’m not sure how long after a queen emerges is too long, in that she wont be able to mate.

When a colony is preparing to swarm, I remove every brood frame, with bees, minus the queen, bar one frame with young brood with eggs. I place that frame in the middle, flanked with empty frames, containing fresh foundation, or fully drawn worker comb, or a combination of both, depending on what I’ve got on hand. I take the split well away, so that no bees return. Most times that split will also need splitting, so as to prevent those bees from swarming with the first virgin queen to emerge.

Thanks for all the advice. Would the simplest adjustment to my plan be to just remove the 3rd box from the top and place it next to the existing hive (with new bottom board and roof of course)? Sounds like I need to make sure there’s plenty of honey in the new hive as well.

This way the foragers won’t get too lost and the queens won’t kill each other.

Hi & you’re welcome Fred. Not really, the strategy that I outlined is based on past experience. I learned a lot from experience (mistakes & failures), which is probably the best way to learn.

I think what you’re describing is a walk-away-split, & probably a preemptive swarm control split, except that you already have queen cells. The bees that have done orientation flights will return to the parent hive, which can leave the junior hive vulnerable to hive beetle damage. On top of that, the parent hive will return to being a reasonably strong hive, which already has the desire to swarm. Therefore you wont have done enough to remove that desire to swarm.

2 weeks ago I pulled 7 frames from the old hive that were pretty full and had queen cells on them and put them in the new hive.

I don’t see any evidence of a queen in the new hive. Should I be worried? I’ve read that it could take 4 weeks for new queens to emerge, mate, and start laying.

Should I wait, move more frames with eggs from the old hive, or consider buying a queen?

If the new queen was successfully mated, you should start to see the first worker brood getting sealed over after 28 days from doing a split without queen cells. You moved queen cells across, so you could probably expect to see the same after around 3 weeks.

I would probably take a look in a week’s time. If no evidence of a new queen, add a frame with eggs then. Then check it in 4 days to see if they are building emergency queens or not.

To answer your question: “Should I be worried?”. No … don’t lose any sleep over it. As long as you have access to frames with eggs, you’ll be right.

This is what I saw last weekend

An empty supercedure cell, right?

Likely not. It is too short. Did you look inside it? If there was no royal jelly (white goop), larva (white grub) or egg in it, it was probably just a play cup. It is also on a frame of mostly bee bread and some honey. I don’t see any brood in the photo. Supercedure cells are usually made within a patch of brood.

However, it is in the right position on the frame for a supercedure cell. :wink:

I would call that an empty supercedure cell Fred, especially if it’s empty. I always take a look in when it’s made with fresh wax like that one is.

It also looks like the start of an emergency queen cell.

Thanks for everyone’s help. I’m happy to report that I saw eggs and some small larva today in the new hive.

Onto the next challenge… Whatever that may be


Adding onto this topic. Our bees swarmed today, I saw where they landed, but before I could get everything ready to catch the swarm, they left the tree branch where they first landed and I cannot find them. Back to the original hive, I understand the original queen won’t leave until the new queen is about to hatch? So, am wondering how soon we should inspect the original hive? I don’t want to take the chance of losing the new queen before she matures and takes her mating flight.

There are different schools of thought on this especially if you’ve already lost the swarm. It may be worthwhile to check to see how many queen cells there are and just preserve the best looking one, knocking down the rest to prevent after swarms.

If the hive is still very congested you might also consider making splits with a queen cell or two for each split.

You can inspect for a egg laying queen about 2 weeks after the new queen is expected to emerge.

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Thank you for your reply. We will inspect today to see how many, if any, queen cells we find and follow your advice.

Holy Moly what a day yesterday was! just a warning, this will be a long post. We inspected our hive around 3:30, I am not sure if the swarm went back into the hive or not, but the hive was so full of bees in both brood boxes. We searched for our original queen on all 20 frames but didn’t see her, but again each frame was completely full of bees. Some queen cups along the bottom of frames were empty and some were capped. This is only our second year of bee keeping and we were not sure what to do. We removed the empty bee cups and all but 3 of the capped cups. I put all the removed cups and extra scraped wax into a ziploc baggie. We put the hive back together waiting to hear back from our bee mentor. I heard the Queen pipping but couldn’t find where it was coming from. As I picked up the ziploc baggie, there was an emerged queen running around the baggie. Since we did not see our original queen, we opened the hive and the queen scurried into the hive. We continued to clean up and dang if there wasn’t another queen in the ziploc bag a few minutes later. We took two frames of brood and two frames of honey from the original hive and put into our NUC and released the second queen into the NUC. As of this morning, all seems well, there is activity in both hives. Bees in and out. The NUC is made of hard plastic with a plastic lid. How long can the bees stay in the NUC?
We are in the Black Hills of South Dakota, USA. It is hot this time of year.
Thanks for your replies!

You should leave them alone for about 2 weeks to see if the queen has mated and started laying. They can stay in there until they are running out of space.

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Wow, Trish that was exciting!! I think you did well considering you had to think so fast with only one year plus under your belt :raised_hands:

I have some pretty hot days to deal with in my area and would wonder about the hard plastic too. For the new nucleus colony I agree with Alok, and would just add to make sure there’s some shade in the afternoon.

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