Walkaway split questions

Unfortunately due to a lot of personal issues over the recent months I haven’t been able to get out to my bees to inspect them.
I opened the two hives up at Christmas - one has a super, the other did not at the time. Both of them were absolutely busting at the seams with bees, I have never seen so many bees in there before at the one time. And the super was absolutely full to the brim with honey. In the brood box of the hive without the super, I found an empty swarm cell but still loads and loads of bees.
The conditions are really good where we are at the moment so I wonder if it would be an ok option to do a walkaway split or two? I just wasn’t sure if I should do something different for the hive with the empty swarm cell - what do you all think? I’m also taking honey off the hive with the super, and was going to add the super to the hive currently without one to give them more space. Or, is that too much all at once?
Would it be an ok idea to give one of the walkaway splits to someone who has a flow hive, but with no bees yet? I don’t have a spare hive unfortunately at the moment so nowhere for me to put them, except for temporarily in a nuc box. Also bees are great and I’m really keen to help out an enthusiast.
I am acquainted with the life cycle of the bee, and have done splits before, but never one where there’s been a swarm cell in the mix!
Really interested and looking forward to hearing if anyone has any advice/tips for me please :slight_smile:

Hi Rosie, is there only one swarm cell within the whole brood box? If so, that would be unusual to only find one, on account that they always produce more than one, for the purpose of natural selection.

Sometimes bees will start a swarm cell, only to abort the idea, which will be evident by an empty swarm cell with a large opening, according to my observations & theory.

I think I would do one or the other, not both. If there are no other queen cells in the brood box, I’d be inclined to add the honey super.

On the other hand, if you want to split it for a friend, go ahead & do so, however you’d need to wait for your colony to build up again before adding the super.


Hi Jeff, thank you for your reply! I actually found two empty swarm cells in the brood box. A neighbour saw a swarm in a tree near to where the bees are kept so I guess I just assumed it would have been my bees swarming.
Would you wait until there’s a queen or at the least a queen cell in the split before giving it away? As I understand it, bees are pretty smart and sophisticated and can figure out when they need a queen and if they are left with the right resources, such as frames of brood at different stages, they can make themselves a queen and grow the colony in their new hive. Is that correct though?

Hi Rosie, I guess it would be up to you whether you give a queen-rite split or a split containing resources for the bees to make one. As long as your friend knows what he or she is getting. The latter would be a good learning exercise for your friend. He/she would need to confirm queen cells after a few days, then check to see if a queen was successfully mated after about a month from you taking the split.

The bees can make a queen from fertile eggs, or worker brood under 3 days, that has only been fed on royal jelly. Any brood older than that, that has received bee bread, to my mind can’t be turned into a queen. That’s something to bare in mind.

Sometimes it takes about 3 days for bees to decide that they need to make a new queen. I guess that is because it must take about 3 days for queen pheromones to wear off, Therefore it’s best to make sure that eggs are present in the resources you provide.