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Swarming or just hot?

Newbie to beekeeping.
Location: North Carolina, USA

This morning my wife went out to her greenhouse and came back telling my Bees were going nuts. I went to check on them and one of the hives was covered in bees top to bottom and bees were flying all over the place.

I thought to myself, this is what Bees must look like when they are swarming.

I quickly came back to my computer to see if there was anything I could do to stop them. I found a post that said if you simulate rain, it would interrupt the swarming.

Went back out to give it a try and they were gone. No more flying around like crazy and the front of the hive just had bees on the landing board as usual. I decided to check the brood boxes. Although I couldn’t find the queen, the two deep brood boxes were teaming with lots of bees.

History of the hive.
Brand new 10 frame hive. Purchased NUC on 4/3 and installed in hive on 4/4. So it is fairly new. I installed second brood box on 4/25 as they were just bout finished drawing comb in the bottom box. Bottom brood box is all waxed foundation frames. Top brood box is half with foundation and half foundationless. They are drawing comb on all 5 of the wax foundation frames in the top box. There is no brood in that box yet.

I did notice in the bottom box there were 3 queen cells. 2 appear to be capped and one is uncapped with larvae in it. Also lots of “swarm cells” on the bottoms of the frames.

Did I wait too long to put the second box on?
Should I get rid of all the swarm cells queen cells? They have tons of space.
During my inspection today, I did not see the queen, but there were a lot of bees, so she could have easily been there

I took a video since I thought that would be helpful.

Swarming Video



The video show typical swarming activity Nick but that is un-usual for a new colony recently installed to swarm. None the less it is what happened. At that stage in the video there is in my opinion no way to stop them. They have as a colony already made their minds up.
Your possibly right that you didn’t add a second brood box soon enough but there are other possible that have brought it on.
Leave the queen cells alone, one will emerge to become the new queen for the colony. The original queen has gone with the swarm.
It could be that the queen was genetically inclined towards swarming in which case the new queen will probably have the same instinct transferred to her off spring. It is the colony that decides on the choice to swarm; it is not a choice made by the queen. If premature swarming happens again I would buy a new queen and introduce her to the hive after terminating the old queen.
Welcome to the forum Nick, enjoy the experience.

Thank you Peter for the response. I guess the good news is, if she is truly gone, there are still a ton of bees in both brood boxes. Far more than there were even the week before when I had last checked.

If the bees do a ‘practice swarm’ they do that without the queen but usually the next day it will be a full on swarming and the queen will be with the swarm. But bees being bees they will have left leaving brood young enough for the colony to make a new queen and so the circle of life continues on.
Bees don’t normally leave a weak hive, it is when a hive over populates that is just one of the waning signs to make a split.
Sound all is good for you Nick, but do some research about doing preemptive swarm splits and always have a spare empty hive handy. That way you can make a split at your time, double your hives or sell the split as a full hive once it makes a new queen and rebuilds its bee strength.
Cheers Nick

I decided I wanted to know for sure so I just completed an inspection of that hive with the sole intention of determining if the queen was still there or not. Surprisingly enough, she was still there. Found her on the 7th frame (should have started from the other side) in the bottom brood box.

I appreciate the advice on the research about splitting hives and such. I definitely had researched some, but really didn’t think I’d have to worry about it this season being brand new hives and all. When I picked up the NUCs, it was almost immediately obvious that I got one very strong colony and one “so-so” colony. The weaker of the two I fed sugar syrup for a few weeks until they were getting obviously stronger. That colony is now thriving as well, but still far behind the stronger one.

I guess if she swarms, she is going to do it no matter what I do at this point. She has an entire second brood box to lay in. they just about drawn out all the comb on the frames with foundation and started on the foundationless frames.

If she doesn’t swarm and the other queens hatch, is it survival of the fittest, or will they kill the new queens, or the old queen?

It doesn’t matter which side you choose to begin a search for the queen she will often head a frame or two in front of you. :laughing: Usually they head for the darkest part of the brood area.
It would be very unusual for a queen to remain in a hive with new queens emerging. My thought is there will be a swarm happen.
So my advice would be to do a split and include the queen in the split so that the present hive will have a newly emerged queen. But it is unusual for a newly installed nuc to want to swarm, especially if there is still plenty of room for the colony to expand. Any chance you can get a pic of the queen Nick?
Normally the first new queen to emerge will kill the other queen before they emerge. So it isn’t really about the survival of the fittest as much as the first to emerge wins.

I don’t think I will have time to get into the hive today to get a pic of the queen. I suspect you are wanting to see if she has thinned down for flight?
Unfortunately, I can’t do a split just yet. I have extra hive bodies, but I don’t have a bottom board or top board. I only have the extra hive bodies because I wanted to customize them using my laser, so bought extras and cut windows in the sides of one of the brood boxes just like on my Flow hive. but I didn’t order another top and bottom until the other day when I thought they were going to swarm. I doubt they will get here for a few more days.

If they do get here before they swarm. I should move the Queen, some honey, a frame of capped brood and anything else? there is plenty of each in the existing bottom brood box

In your position I would do a heavy handed split, taking the queen, a couple of frames of brood and accompanying bees that don’t have queen cells on them, a frame or two of stores (pollen and honey). Fill in with frames of foundation to the outside.
I don’t take a nuc from my hives, I do a 50/50 split taking half of everything and in that way the colony thinks that it has swarmed, which basically it has, but, it is done on my terms and my time frame. A better option than trying to gather a swarm in what could be a difficult situation.

I was finally able to get time and good weather at the same time to get back inside the hive. My queen is still there and she has been producing like a champ. Many frames of brood. The top brood box has almost all of the frames drawn out with the exception of the two end frames which are foundationless. But the only thing they are storing up there is honey, so the queen has not found her way up there yet. The one queen cell that was in this hive is no longer capped, so I’m guessing that new queen has met her fate. I attached a nice photo of the queen since you asked and here is a link to a short video of her since it wouldn’t allow me to upload the video

My second hive, which is my flow hive appears to have a queen cell now as well. I couldn’t find my queen in that hive, but there are brood in various stages, so I’m going to assume she is still there.

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A good set of pics Nick, so easy to pick out a marked queen. I mark mine as a part of how I manage my hives.
You can’t directly down a video to the forum, @Dawn_SD has described how to put a video on YouTube first then put a link to it on the forum. That is something I haven’t tried, camera shake is my issue, but it only shakes when I pick it up :grin: :grin: