Swarming behavior with no swarming?

Hi everyone,

I noticed peculiar behavior from my flow hive I would like to get your opinion on. We were extracting honey from 2 frames for the first time and noticed on the outer capped frames that the bees were starting to remove the cappings and drink the honey. Then they did it from two more frames. They didn’t drink it all, just sporadically. It was a overcast day with a full bee hive. The next day it was sunny and I seen a ton of bees flying over the hive horizontally. Also there was a lot of bearding on the front of the hive. The difference with the bearding this time was a lot of buzzing noise. Two behaviors I was taught that signaled a swarm was about to happen. I let the hive be for a day and went to investigate and found no reduction in bees and no queen cells being made. I also found the original (marked)queen as well as new eggs and capped brood. I though swarming this late in the season is because of disease or heat or predators? Any insight? Thank you!

They may be considering absconding after the Flow frame leak. Have you washed off and dried the slider/tray under the bottom board? :wink:

Hi Dawn,

I opened up the hive this morning and zero honey spills noticed anywhere in the hive or on bottom tray. The bees all seem normal today with normal activity at the entrance. Tons of capped honey in bottom two boxes and flow frame was quite heavy as well. I did notice some robbing activity with a wasp and put a entrance reducer back on to help reduce the stress to the hive. But again, I see no reduction in bees. Do some bees abscond, or is it always the entire hive?

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I have seen both. I think it depends on the degree of annoyance that they have with whatever is bothering them. For me, with ants, the whole hive left. With Apivar strips, it was a little more than half of the hive.

You might be fine, they may be having a delayed reaction, and once they realize that the hive is OK, they will settle down. Only time will tell. :blush:

Thanks Dawn! Learning so much from your posts!:heart:

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My gut feeling is that the bearding was a result of a honey spill. I think the bees beard outside the hive to give the bees that are cleaning up room to move. Then after the spill is cleaned up, things get back to normal again.

I think that a lot bigger event, such as a hive beetle slime-out that can’t be overwhelmed, would need to occur before a colony decides to abscond.

Bare in mind that the brood is the primary reason why bees do what bees do. Something has to be pretty bad before a colony will pack up & leave a whole brood nest behind.

PS. Whatever steps you take to minimize honey spills will result in less disturbance to the bees.

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Thank you Jeff! I agree with both of you and think the spillage caused the hive some stress and some bees thought about leaving. The hive seems back to normal and I’ll keep a close watch on it. Appreciate both of you very much!

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You’re welcome Nicholas. You could consider next time to open the frames in increments, as Dawn & others do, as a means of spreading the leaks over a longer period of time.

You’ll have to add “harvesting honey” to your list of reasons for bearding.

It was good that you did the brood check anyway, just to be sure.



Hi Jeff,

I sure will! No matter how much I read or prepare for something, I know there is always someone with more experience and advice that they are willing to share, For that I am thankful! One more comment. I started this hive with a healthy fear of bees. Through the months, these bees have taught me how much they don’t want to sting me! Especially a foot from the entrance daily to observe them with no protective gear on. When I opened the hive today, I felt a sense of calm. I was no longer afraid of the bees, but in awe of them❤️ All of you have helped me get to this point, thank you!! I hope to pass it on in the future as I gain experience.


Well, that has to be one of the best posts of the year @Bianca, @Freebee2!

Thank you for sharing that with us, @Fortheloveofbees. Priceless stuff :blush:


Wow! This is certainly special. You’ve captivated such a special image with your words. Would you mind if Flow publicly shared this so a wider audience can enjoy and be inspired?

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Thank-you and I would be honored❤️


So my bees swarmed on me last year, a new queen hatched, and the hive built up fairly quick. My bees are currently coming out of the winter now and this is how they’re behaving as of today do you think they are getting ready to swarm again or are they just hot since it is around 80° over here in New York.

Hi Mike, because you are in spring, it’s highly likely that your colony is preparing to swarm. You should do a brood check to see what’s happening.

If your colony hasn’t started swarm preparations, you can do a preemptive swarm control split, which is what I do.

If the colony has started swarm preparations, you can act quickly (with help from here) to prevent the colony from swarming. I can tell you what I do in that situation, which works for me.

You need to act quickly if you don’t want the colony to swarm, just in case they have already started preparing to swarm.


Thank you Jeff,
Do I need to find the queen or just see if there are any Queen cells and put them in the new hive?

Michael Smart,

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Also, how many frames should I move into the new hive?

So I opened up my hive and it was packed 34 layers deep. I couldn’t even see the frames. I have split my hive. I was not able to find the queen, though there was a lot of capped brood, different stages of larvae still hard for me to find the beginning stage of the larvae. I did see some queen cells. One of them was cat, but I did not see any queen cells at the bottom of the frames. Not sure if that makes a difference.

I just hope I did it, right. There were 4 1/2 or five frames with brood. I took two brood frames and two frames with honey and put it into the new hive and added extra blank frames to each hive.

Will the bees I put in the new hive leave the brood and go back to the old hive?

When should go back into the new hive and see if there is a queen or queen cells?

Same question for the old hive?

Hi Mike, you did well. The bees that have done an orientation flight will return to the parent hive, leaving the ones that haven’t behind to care for the brood. I take my splits away, so as to avoid this from happening.

Have a look in a day’s time to see if there are swarm cells in either hive. You might have to gently shake some bees off frames to get a better look at them.

Generally speaking, if there are 3-4 layers of bees on brood frames during spring, that colony will, or soon be getting ready to swarm.

In doing preemptive swarm control splits, I generally time it so that there is just one good layer of bees on brood frames. That way I can spot the queen, plus any swarm cells that may have started. I never worry that I might be splitting too soon, on account of the long season ahead for the colony to rebuild in.

Hi Jeff,
Thank you for the information I will keep everyone posted as to how my first split went. This is what they look like currently. Looking at the picture the hive on the right is the old hive and the new split is on the left.

Should I have kept trying to find a queen or doesn’t really matter?

Michael Smart,

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Hi Mike, it’s probably imperative that we know where the queen is, so that we can focus our attention on the hive that doesn’t have one. Actually both hives need our attention, so as to make sure that neither hives swarm.

The split hive, assuming it has no queen or swarm cells will start building emergency queens, usually after about 3 days. That hive can swarm with the first virgin to emerge, unless we break every one down bar one.

You need to make sure that the hive with the queen doesn’t proceed to swarm.

Let us know what you find, cheers