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Swarm or no swarm?


Hi everyone I’m new! And also new to beekeeping. I have langstroth hive which I bought as a Nuc in the late spring (we had a long winter). Things have been going fantastic, which is probably where I made a mistake. I had been checking my bees every two weeks, and when I added a new brood box I thought I should let them bee for a bit.
I checked them a few weeks later and they were doing so well I was overwhelmed and too nervous to inspect the entire hive (my confidence is building).
I am in contact with the gentleman who sold me the Nuc and hes been great at helping me out, so he advised me to check them a week later and add a second super.
The story goes that the day before I checked them (yesterday)… I came out to my chickens and there was a swarm in my yard. I followed them and watched them get set up high in a tree, so I put out a box in hopes of attracting them in. When I came back out to check they had left. Now I should mention there was a beekeeper checking his bees all day yesterday one quarter section away from mine.
I got into my hive this morning and I went through every single frame, I found a few swarm cells… two or three capped, a couple open with larvae, and one that MIGHT have been hatched out.
So then Im thinking ok was this my bees that swarmed? But the swarm was small… about the size of a cantaloupe. It disappeared and we combed the entire tree line looking for it, all the out buildings, everywhere. Now my hive is still packed chock full of bees… so now Im wondering if they returned? It doesn not seem like I’ve lost any, tons of honey also.

So my questions are, what would you think in this situation? Could the bees be the neighbors? Could they be mine? Could they have returned to the hive?
And most importantly, where do I go from here? Should I open the hive again tomorrow and get rid of the super cells? Should I leave them in case my queen has left?
I haven’t been able to locate the queen in this hive, so I usually watched for signs she was there. I want to get a marked queen the next time around because I have a hard time seeing her.
Im not really sure where to go next…

Any advice or help would be hugely appreciated.


90% chance they are yours. You need to read both of these leaflets right now, and read them several times. At first they will seem overwhelming, but they will tell you exactly what to do:



Don’t worry they are not written in your country. Bees don’t understand nationality. :smile:


I think you might find your answer in this thread:

Also by doing a seach up the top right-hand corner of the screen using a key word, e.g.


Ok Thanks! This information is helping me out already. These pamphlets have a ton of information.
So a little more info now that I’ve read a bit…
Assuming the swarm was mine is it possible they’ve returned, and if so will my queen still be in the hive? Why was the swarm not very large? And why couldn’t I find them again, do you think they’d travel so far away? We live on a quarter so we probably searched about a 1/4 mile.

In my hive I had swarm cells hanging off the bottom of the frames of the second brood box. There was maybe 5 or 6. A couple were capped, and a couple were open with larvae. I think no queen had hatched because I hadn’t realized there would still be a “cap” on top… so I believe that was just an open cup. There was possibly one emergency cell, but it wasn’t in the centre of the frame and it was all by itself. It was capped (probably just a swarm cell)
There was lots of larvae and capped brood. I have a hard time seeing the eggs, so next check I’m going to take a flashlight or magnifying glass.

The queen I had was a bit older, two years old.

I guess should I check tomorrow again and only leave one or two capped queen cells? Or should I wait a couple days and check for eggs being laid?

I’m also going to set up a bait box just in case, do you have any recommendations for the best way to attract them in? I don’t have a lot of extra drawn comb but I can get some lemon grass and I put some frames in with a little comb on them. As well as a little honey. is it ok to place a bait box right next to my hive or should I put it further away?
I’ll keep on reading into the night and hopefully I will be able to remedy the situation.

Huge learning event for me. Thats for sure.


@dutchiekins I’d probably split that hive now (do you know about this method?) and if you don’t want another hive long term, put it back (recombine) with the other one in Autumn. It is possible you saw a practice swarm from your hive and they have gone back in. They possibly didn’t have the queen with them or something. A walk away split might be the easiest thing for you to undertake at this stage of your learning…not sure on what to do with those queens cells but you need to do something asap.


Hi Dan,
I haven’t yet done a split. But I have an extra hive and I would be ok with having two hives long term. The only issue I’d see is that Im in Canada, will a split hive this time of year be strong enough to survive the winter? Id like to overwinter my bees. Could you give me the steps for this method? I will also look up some information to read. Thanks


What I would probably do is grab an empty box and place it next to your hive. Take out the frames with the swarm cells on them and shake all the bees off them gently into the box below (into the original hive). If any bees are subborn make sure they are not a queen bee and put the frame into the spare box with a couple of other brood frames and a honey frame also all with no bees on them. Reassemble all the boxes of the original hive and put a queen excluder on top. On top of that put your new box with the beeless frames in it. Put a lid on. Come back in a couple of hours and you will see a whole lot of bees on the frames in the top box. There should be no queen bee up there. Take the box off and put it on a base . Put on a lid and move it (the new hive) to a new spot a couple of metres away. Recombine when swarming season over. Put the queen excluder back where you had it before you did the split.
Sorry…typing on my phone so a bit hard… oh and also you will need to have replaced the frames you took out of the original hive with flat frames or better still, with empty drawn frames. Centre the remaining brood.


Thanks Dan, this helps a lot and a similar plan is listed in the information given earlier.
I have a couple questions… My biggest problem right now is that I am actually unsure as to whether or not I have a queen (if the swarm returned she can be there, if it did not then she might be gone or maybe she even died?)… If I do your plan as suggested, I will ensure that the new hive will have all the queen cells and the old one has none. Hopefully the old hive will have the old queen. But if it does not, will the bees make emergency cells and create a new queen or will they perish?
Id prefer to save both and not lose any!
And will the bees turn off their “swarm” programming?
Thanks again!


Check one of the brood frames that will remain in the original hive for eggs when you do the split. These are hard to see. Use sunlight and glasses if needed. They will make a new queen from these if needed.
The swarm tendency may still be there so check the original hive in a week…one issue may be trying to work out whether or not queen cells you see (if any) at that time in the original hive are swarm ones or emergency ones.


with respect to getting the nurse bees to come up from the old hive brood and onto the frames selected for the new hive, you may be best to put them directly above the queen excluder for the couple of hours you wait for them to get covered in bees.

This is a good one to look at for next time and general knowledge. This bloke is experienced enough to be able to find the queen no sweat.


Dan, this method is different from the one I used last year where I took the queen away from the original hive and had the original hive make a new queen (with help from the field bees which returned to the main hive swelling their numbers and making it strong enough to raise multiple queens and swarm anyway!!) It does make sense to do it this way and to have everyone stay where you put them, with no need to relocate the new hive. He uses a full size box and then puts the super back on top. I wonder if they would have difficulty heating it if I was to use this method this early in the season - and defending against small hive beetle…?


Hi Cathie, yes, I also made the same mistake last year by putting the old queen in a new hive away from the original position, and had a swarm issue as a consequence (because of all the field bees and the emergency queen cells were in the original position). I reckon the way it is done in the video looks excellent. The only thing is you need to be able to find the queen to do it like he does…that can be a real problem for the inexperienced.
As the guy says, make up an artificial swarm so the bees think they have swarmed. You just need to remember that the artificial swarm is in the original position…not a new position as in nature. I don’t know about the SHB issue to be honest, but one risk for inexperienced beekeepers is chalkbrood from too much space in a split, something I need to be thinking of this spring so as not to make the same mistake twice…


When a queen goes on mating flight a lot of bees go with . It resembles a small swarm. It could have be yours or neighbors bees on mating flight. The other day I saw this and the returning bees bearded on hive. Shortly later I saw ball of bees on ground below so I checked and sure enough they were balling a queen. I caged her and gave to new nuc. It happened again yesterday another mating flight. Might have been same queen. Don’t know. Don’t care.


When I do splits I do not care where queen is. If I do know that is the box I move. Just make sure both boxes have resourses to make queen. Next inspection you will know what hive queen is in. If hives do not get big enough to over wintering combine in fall. With 2 brood boxes I would split into 3. I am not recommending that but that is what I do. To me bees are worth more than honey so I make bees.


Thanks for your opinion!
If I left a queen cell in each hive to ensure that both boxes have an opportunity to make a new queen- will they not still desire to swarm?

I don’t sell honey, it will only be for myself and my family to use. So I am not terribly worried about my honey Harvest. Im more worried about losing my bees! And also learning what to do when this sort of thing happens.

I appreciate everyones help and I am going to try splitting the hive this morning or tomorrow morning. Probably the sooner the better Id imagine. I threw my back out lifting the brood box the other day because I was a little nervous and stiff! So Im not sure if I can physically accomplish it today. I hope I wont be too late tomorrow.


I found one more step on artificial swarming on Galway Beekeepers site, which really makes sense to me. They outline a simple plan moving the original hive (yellow box) a metre to the left of the new box (blue box)which is in the original position. Field bees return to the new box in the original position with the queen and honey super ensuring no lack of honey production but a lot of space for the queen to lay.

After seven days, Move the yellow hive one metre on the opposite side of the blue hive. The flying bees from this yellow hive will return to find their home missing and will go to the nearest hive, which will be the blue. This will help build up the loss of bees in the blue and will encourage the growth of the colony in the blue hive. This procedure also reduces the risk of flying bees leaving the yellow hive with a new queen, known as a cast swarm, because it leaves fewer flying bees in the yellow hive.
Lots of splitting methods out there but at least this is a simple one.


Hey everyone update today. I went into the hive early this morning and made the uneducated guess that it is queenless. I couldn’t see any eggs and the bees were more agitated than EVER, they immediately went crazy. There were also some new emergency cells formed. However lots and lots fo bees. I feel like maybe they tried to swarm once they had capped a couple queen cells, and somehow lost the queen. Maybe she died, and they went back to the hive as a result.
So now… I split the hive and made sure there was one or two capped queen cells plus a cell or two with larvae in each hive, some brood, and some honey. I squished a few excess super cells.
I pushed the old hive stand to a new position (not very far away as I have a bad back today and couldn’t lift well) and I put the new one in the old ones position. To hopefully give them the notion they’d swarmed.
I wish I could have put them further away from each other but I couldn’t manage.
I put a honey super on back on top of each one. I spread out the brood with honey on the outer sides and brood in the middles spaced with empty frames.

I am crossing my fingers and praying to the bee gods I succeed!


Well done @dutchiekins. Hope it works out. At least you have some queen cells and hopefully you will end up with a couple of mated queens at the end of the day. It will take them a while to get laying and for the bees to emerge and contribute to each colony, so I’m guessing a newspaper combine in fall will be the way to go.
It is theoretically possible to move each frame separately when splitting and things to reduce the weight being lifted at any one time. I try to remember to do that to help with the back issue.


I love that strategy “crossing my fingers and praying to the bee gods”. Seriously if your colonies are making emergency queens, I’d be inclined to keep the brood frames together & not checkerboard them which it sounds like you have done.

Hope your back feels better soon, cheers


I know right!? Ok… can you explain why would keep them together? I spaced them because I had read it would make them think they have swarmed to have new space. I’ll prob go back in by the end of the week. I could rearrange them then. I think… THINK maybe the queens in the capped cells may have hatched by then if everything goes perfectly. So I had hoped to check in and see that that has happened. And I think THINK… that maybe next week they’d be doing their mating. So if everything goes absolutely right then my hives could be back up and running by then. But Im nervous… like I said, praying to the bee gods!