Swarm, queen cells, More swarms arrrrrr!

So the first Flowhive bees had been going gang busters and easily filled the super well before winter started, so we did draw some honey off which the bees easily replenished before winter started. About two weeks ago the hive swarmed and it left only and skeleton crew of bees behind. But we retrieved the swarm and after splitting some brood frames between two flowhive boxes we split the large swarm between them. May have moved a frame that had three queen cells on it into the new hive.

Today told the bees had swarmed, again and went to check -

So hive 1, the original hive was given four empty frames to replace the four that was placed in hive 2. These frames have full fresh comb on them and the hive is very full of bees and lots of brood and what we believed to be eggs. But we couldn’t find the queen.

Hive 2 was not as full as 1, but fresh comb being built and three queen cells and bees working on preparing the flow frames for honey.
The swarm nearby, was one quarter of the first swarm was quietly sitting under a small table

So we have caught the swarm and move to a friends hive but unknown if there was a queen.

So we had two hives going well apparently with one making new queens ?

And a swarm? Is this a swarm from the first that was split in two or possibly an outside swarm?

We couldn’t see a queen in the swarm but would they do this without a queen?

Any thoughts you may have would be greatly appreciated

Any split done that has both the queen and queen cells will swarm. Marking a queen makes life so much easier if you need to find her in the future like when the colony is too strong and conditions are good and doing a split is the best option that you can be sure that a frame of eggs is in the split and the queen in the other. Even more important if there is already queen cells in the hive.

Hi Peter
Thanks for that advice
So we’re thinking we have been catching the swarms as they have happened and got lucky when we moved Frames from The brood box with queen cells away from the first queen. And the second swarm that should have had a queen also we have now placed into a friends hive.

Your thinking is sound John but I prefer to do splits before the colony has made any queen cells. That way it really cuts down the risk of 2nd’ry swarms. I had a great mentor who was happy to put the time into me but it still took a few years to get the hang of it and even longer to get confident about it.
I seldom need to add frames of eggs to a colony(split) and when I have to my thinking is that a virgin bee has emerged finding previously capped queen cells but she has likely been taken by insect eating bees during her mating flight. I’m thinking butcher birds, magpies and swallows in abundance up here. Magpies visit my apiary most afternoons for a feed of bees that fall short of the hive.

Hi Peter, looking for your wisdom. Definitely not confident splitting here. I wish you were next door I’d skull drag you in for a coffee!! I’m looking to split - I’ve got a double brood chamber (8-frames each) and last night there were a lot of bees above the top screen below the lid and packed in the flow super- which I imagine means they’re a bit crowded. The weather has been cool over the week not so good for nectar collection but they have lots of pollen. They will be much more active this week with netter weather.
I’m totally hopeless at finding the queen and it’s even worse now the bees are two deep over the brood frames. To make matters worse I can never seem to see the eggs in the cells (probably my eyes) Today I found a few queen caps with nothing in them and one formed queen cell (with a larvae I managed to destroy in the inspection) all of which had developed over the last 7 days - there were none the week before.
Hows this for a plan? Thinking I’ll look again next W/E and expect to find queen cups and cells again with eggs or larvae and split then. As I probably won’t find the queen I’ll brush off all bees and put the new box - frames with queen cells/cups, brood and supplies etc above queen excluder and repopulate with nurses and then take off the hive the next day. What could possibly go wrong? :frowning:
I dislike inspecting this often for fear of squashing my queen but I confess I’ve lost too many bees to swarming in the past and need to manage them better.

Thanks Peter
One question please, when a swarm leaves the hive is it so that a new queen left behind has enough workers and they rebuild the hive? Or do swarms leaving a hive vacates it leaving it empty?

What that really mean is that the bees are bring in nectar and bust storing the honey up there in the super. Without a few pics it is darn hard for me to assess your brood. Most hives will half make a queen cell that is called a play cup and of no concern. I don’t knock them down as 48 hours the bees will have made new ones and it is very seldom a play cup will never be used for a queen cell.
It really sounds like the colony is in swarming mode having made a queen cell that is in use and if you look further you will likely find more there,
If your not able to spot the queen or eggs then you really need the help of someone to help in doing a successful split. Too risky to do a split and have the queen and queen cells in one of the boxes which will definately result in swarming in that hive.
As you have already found a queen cell you have lost the advantage and you really should find a bee keeper in your area to help in finding the queen then put her in one hive without any queen cells, by next weekend the bees will be already making new queen cells, more than one, it is rare to find only one. When there is queen cells in use you really need to find the queen, if you don’t there is a 50/50 chance of better of swarming Jeff…
Good to read that you are thinking about solving swarming from happening.

Thanks Peter, I guess you confirmed my suspicions. I looked carefully and there was just the one formed queen cell but I’m sure you are right with what’s coming. I was really hoping to spot the queen and take her out with a swag of the others and hopefully replicate a swarm. Unfortunately its a bit difficult around here at present with the covid restrictions making interaction with those other than family outside of the rules, hopefully that’ll change soon.
My hive swarmed last season while I was away for 2 weeks at the peak during the end of October, and I lost my opportunity for honey production, I added a second brood box full of foundation frames in November and they drew the foundation and filled it with brood and honey within a month. Was hoping to get some this year. A very productive queen replaced the one that swarmed, She’s utilising both brood boxes pretty well and they came out of this winter very strong with a lot of stored honey. I took 4 frames of honey out and replaced with foundation which they drew out within a week in mid September. Bee numbers increasing since and I hoped they may have stored honey but they seem more intent on building numbers. Seems a bit counter productive adding a third brood chamber - that’d be a bigger nightmare doing hive inspections! Sorry about the long reply.


I wouldn’t go with the idea of a 3rd full depth brood box, the queen can only lay about 2000 eggs a day and Ill leave it to you to do the maths and count the cells on a frame if you like but I haven’t heard of anyone with a triple full depth brood hive. I was very relieved when I moved to Qld and find single brood box hives is the go up here, having come from West of Sydney and considerably colder than Sydney so all my fives were 10 frame double brood hives.
Cheers Jeff

You’re right Peter, I won’t be counting cells. Just far better to find that queen. Cheers

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So swarm No 3 caught and placed in a brood box. Currently there is plenty of flowering going on and I assume a new swarm will feed it self but I’m not sure this late swarm would have had access to honey stores before it left or would it not swarmed if it didn’t.
So should I feed them ? Would it hurt to feed them as insurance?
Thanks :blush:

Personally I would feed them syrup as that will help them in wax making and they will need to make it John. My thinking is that if there is a shortage of nectar about the hive would be much less likely to have got into swarming mode. To have a hive swarm three times would make me think there is no shortage of nectar but I would offer syrup and let the bees decide which they will prefer.

Thanks Peter
Appreciate your help I’ll give it a try

Hi Peter

Had a look inside the other day. Only about a quarter of the box has comb but there was eggs, larvae and capped brood.
Saw the queen and got a pic of her.
Started to free the syrup and it took a few days but eventually they took to it and on their second litre jar now.