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Swarm process summarised


Hi All, things have moved quite rapidly since I was given some bees from a chimney that was being demolished in April.

I caught two swarms recently, and was wondering what the time line is for the hive to develop.

I have one hive with top bars only, and the other has some frames with foundation. They were caught nearly a month ago, and the second two weeks ago.

So now I am wondering when I should expect to see brood. They are making comb pretty rapidly now, and there were a lot of bees and er the roof just hangin. Does this indicate that they are getting crowded?

Does the queen start laying as soon as the comb is drawn?


geoff Bell


If you have a swarm with a mated queen she will start laying straightaway. If she is a virgin and needs to get out to mate then depending on the weather you may have to wait three weeks. If there are no eggs after a month she is a dead loss


Perfect. Thanks Dee. So my options for a dead loss are

  1. new queen?
  2. A frame of brood so they can feed a new queen.?
  3. A queen cell from another hive.?
  4. combine queenless hive with a queened hive?

So I have three hives now, and my logic steers me toward combining, cause I figure a strong hive is better than two weak one. is that what you would recomend?

Thats all I got!

Is there a problem for the hive by using freshly painted ( outside only) hives?

Thanks Dee


I should add it is just coming into high spring here, although the flow has been slow according to local BK’s


Hi Geoff, seeing as your in spring, I wouldn’t combine. What I would do is wait 2 weeks & take a look. If I don’t see any eggs, I’d add a frame of brood containing fertile eggs or very young larvae. Then look in 4 days time to see if the bees are building queen cells or not.

Two weak colonies, with a little bit of brood frame manipulation during spring can turn into 2 strong colonies in a matter of a couple of months. You wouldn’t want 2 weak colonies if you were going into winter.


Thanks Jeff. I have a plan!:slight_smile:


Yes as Jeff says.
If they build queen cells you’re off. No need to thin them, the bees will sort the best one out. You can prop them up with another frame of emerging brood.
If you decide you have a queen and you want to replace her you WILL have to find the original.
Good luck and keep us in the loop


I inspected one of my swarms yesterday, collected almost 5 weeks ago, 9 frames fully drawn & all brood, little pollen, almost no honey. I’m in the Dandenongs. Need to inspect the other but ran out of good weather, hoping thursday will obey forecast.


Brilliant. Swarms do draw frames quickly.
Are you experiencing some bad weather?
Maybe a thin rolled out pollen/pollen substitute patty slapped straight on the top bars might be in order?


So a quick calculation, about 63*40 cells on each frame, about 2000
cells +, her majesty can lay 1000 to 2000 eggs per day, a frame a day is
not out of the question?


A Langstroth deep frame with standard foundation has 3,500 cells per side, or 7,000 per frame. I would think 30% of a frame per day would be closer… :blush:


Yes, that was a bit too quick a calculation! Well thats astounding. How
much of her time is egg laying? Does she lay overnight. It must be
pretty dark in a hive all day so light is probably not a factor?

I found a big mob of bees in the swarm hive lid yesterday. Is that a
sign of overcrowding? I put a super on top with a clearing board between
it and the lid to give them something to do. It cleaned them out in
about 20 minutes. Is that just the parent in me wanting these
recalcitrant teenagers (bees) to get up off the couch and do something,
or are they entitled to a few hours down time!


We are experiencing appalling weather! Last weekend 120km p/h winds, three 20-30m trees down, 1 80 years old. So much rain & days of these horrible winds. I had to cut their combs down to fit into frames, what I cut from edges had pollen in so I put on top of hive mat in case they needed it. They are still working on retrieving it, I should have a day on Sunday suitable to check stores again & will see if need to feed pollen. We’ve actually had 3 days in a row with some sun & they’ve been bringing back loads of pollen, still might not be enough.


Kirsten, maybe we should start a weather related thread…this way all you folk over East can see the weather we get here in the West and have an idea of what is coming your way in a few days time… :wink:


Don’t worry too much if there is some pollen. Bees are pretty good at stopping brooding in a pollen dearth. I’ve found here Italians are the exception and will brood till they run out of food then start chucking brood out
Weather sounds atrocious a bit like we had last year.


Hi, had a really good inspection of my two swarm hives yesterday. I
could find no brood at all. It is two weeks for one hive, and 4 weeks
for the other. The weather has been pretty mean over that time , wet,
windy, but the odd fine days. Temperatures are rising now, and rolling
into high spring. Both hives are very busy loading up nectar, and making
comb . I don’t see any pollen being brought in either. I have put a
brood comb from another hive in one to encourage some queen cell making.

I am not convinced there isn’t a queen in either of the swarm hives,
maybe an unmated virgin, but it doesn’t look good I feel.

How likely are swarm hives not to have a queen? The way they took to the
collection boxes must indicate they had a queen to start with.

So will check in 5 days to see if queen cells are being constructed, and
being patient!. If a few are being made, I could transfer one to the
other swarm hive as well?

Is this the right approach?


Thanks Dee, good to know. I was able to get into the other swarm hive yesterday (first 1 collected, 1 week prior to other). Wow what a difference an intial week of decent weasther makes, & different type bees too. Honey galore, pollen, 10 full frames with brood. But…also some issues. Will post pics & problems tomorrow, weekend & a day off finally, will ave time to write properly & make some sense :wink: