Swarm return to the hive?

This morning at 10:30 I noticed my hive swarming into a nearby tree. This is my second spring with the ladies. They seemed very healthy after winter. I was just about to put the honey super on the hive today anyway.

I called for a swarm removal and while I waiting I put the honey super on. By 11:30 when I got a call back from someone who wanted my swarm the swarm had disappeared. This is probably hard to say but what are the chances they returned to the hive? Was this a practice swarm?

I’m mostly worried that they set up home somewhere inside a wall or crawl space. If it’s a practice swarm I will stay around the house tomorrow between 10 and noon.

What’s in the brood box?
Is the queen still there? Or is she clipped…the swarm would have returned if your queen was clipped.
Have you got capped queen cells? If you don’t want the colony t swarm again in a week you need to get in there to thin them down to one open cell where you can see a larva swimming in lots of royal jelly. Colonies can swarm and swarm repeatedly till they are very small and won’t give you any honey.

You need to inspect and tell us what the situation is rather than waiting to see what happens tomorrow.
Can I ask why you didn’t collect them yourself?

And yes…it’s quite likely they are in somebody’s roof


Why didn’t I do it myself? is a question I asked myself in between curse words. :grin:

I’ll inspect when I get done with work today (gotta earn a living) or in the morning. I’m still new at this and I didn’t think I’d ever see a swarm in person.

Thank you for your feedback!

What you are looking for is
If no queen are there eggs
If no eggs is there uncapped brood
Are there swarm cells? How many and are there any open ones or are they all capped
That will do for a start.
Good luck


Hi Leigh, you describe something similar to what I have experienced. How big was the swarm would you say? Grapefruit or basketball or somewhere in between? The prime swarm is usually a big one as I recall. Jeff here in Australia who is very knowledgeable, said (if I recall properly - sorry Jeff if I have mis-quoted you!) that he assumes every healthy hive will swarm in swarm season (words to that effect). The point I am trying to make here relates to your comment about not expecting to see a swarm in person. I think we need to let everyone know who has a hive that you need to be as vigilant as possible in relation to swarming- so that is why I make this point. As you allude to, the other thing that can happen is that they can swarm and if you are at work with no-one at home, you might not see them or realise. Even a big prime swarm that has flown the hive and settled just a metre or two off the ground can be very silent in a tree and you can walk right past it many times not noticing - depending on the thickness of the foliage of course. So what I am saying too is that you might have seen one of the after-swarms or cast swarms. The prime swarm may have settled and gone days ago.

Yep…done that ! I have spent half an hour looking in vain for a missing queen to have her swarm roar away behind me as I closed up :blush:

Another reason to look in and pay attention to the age of the brood when @helloleighgrant reports back. It’s good to get to the end of the problem so that everybody can learn from it, even us folk replying

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Thank you both for your advice and patience as I learn.

I checked the entire hive yesterday – took every frame out (very carefully) and looked for a queen. I couldn’t see her, but I think she’s in there as they got increasingly agitated the closer I got to the middle of the hive.

What I did find was a lot of capped brood with larva and baby bees crawling out of some of them as I inspected. I got so caught up in looking for the queen I didn’t notice if there were eggs or not.

There’s also a lot of honey on some frames and other frames have very little comb. One frame had two layers of brood comb with queen cells attached. The bees were working both sides of the comb and leaving the frame empty.

I found a few supersedure cells and a bunch of closed swarm cells, 10 in all, and 4 cells that look like they’ve been opened, ie they no longer have an occupant. I also saw some emergency cells too, they were open with nothing in them.

I read this PDF @Dee posted: http://www.wbka.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/There-Are-Queen-Cells-In-My-Hive-WBKA-WAG.pdf
and I’m still unsure of what to do.

Should I split the hive? Destroy the swarm cells?

There are a lot more bees that I would expect at this time of year. The hive is very, very healthy. Maybe too healthy. I set a trap box up with old comb in it just in case they swarm again.

Thank you again. :blush:

The bees were likely agitated because they have no queen.
If you have emerged queen cells then they have swarmed and probably more than once.
There may even be emerged virgins running around.
I think in this case, as a beginner especially, you are past any remedial action and I would suggest you now leave well alone and see what you have in three weeks.
You can get emergency cells in the presence of swarm cells if you take the queen away before she swarms but you won’t get supersedure cells as well.

Next time you need to get into your hive regularly during the swarming season to prevent this

Where on the planet are you, by the way?


I’m in Colorado. It’s still early in our swarm season but swarm season non the less.

Thank you for your assistance.

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It’s useful to know where you are
(on the planet…sorry I wasn’t being rude)

Swarming is early here in the UK and has caught many of us out

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I didn’t take it as rude! I neglected to say where I was. You’ve been so kind to me.

So to be sure, this is what I’m going to do: inspect in 3 weeks to see if there are eggs and/or queen cells? If neither should I buy a new queen? Drink heavily? :wink:

When I called the bee swarm hotline I was told it was early for swarms here. I’ll know better for next year. This is my first full year with them. I got them last May as a rescue colony, they had set up house in a friends roof. I guess they are doing it again this year. They are feisty little ladies.

At some point I’ll give a class on “what not to do” with bees. I’m really good at making first-timers mistakes!


Often the best learning comes from your own mistakes.
Keeping bees is not straightforward but oh so much fun when it all goes right.
Three weeks…you should have at least eggs but I’m betting some more advanced brood.
If you have somebody with a little experience to hand you will be able to mark your new queen. Then you’ll be set with a new queen for the season…one you bred yourself …and hopefully a honey crop


I am quite a bit south west of you, but my unofficial SoCal mentor says that when he sees the first drones in a hive, swarm season starts about a month later. (Even mentors have mentors!) He removes bees for a living, as well as providing pollination services etc. This year, he saw the first drones in late December. You are probably a month or two behind that, but you might keep that bit of info in your pocket for next year. :smile: Next time you can read your own hive(s), not just other peoples’ history books. :wink:


Keep a look out as you are for more swarms just in case. Have boxes with floors and lids ready. Each individual needs to make a decision on personal safety when trying to capture them of course.


@Dan2 I’m ready now! LOL hindsight and all that. @Dawn_SD I will keep that in my “bee notes.”


Hi Leigh
I’m not sure if you said how big the “practice” swarm was. Just for a reference point, I have seen a prime swarm come from a hive about 7days after a fist/tennis ball sized swarm had briefly settled.

@Dan2, it was bigger than a melon and smaller than a basketball

Thanks Leigh…ok, quite a bit bigger than I imagined, What you describe sounds about the size of an Australian Rules Football.

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Sounds about right. Is that the same size as a rugby ball? #Askingforafriend

Yeah- roughly the same. Tasmania is an Aussie Rules State.

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