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building queen cells AFTER artificial swarm

advice needed.  i carried out an artificial swarm last week. i opened the new hive that is in the original position with the old queen to find that even though she's laying and there are plenty of larvae, there were 4 small queen cells present after a week! there is only about 4 frames of bees (i checked them at lunch time when it was warm so presumably there were more out foraging) however i only have one frame of brood and one frame of stores with her from the artificial swarm.  they havn't really attempted to make new comb on the foundation i put in.  should i put in more brood and another frame of brood from the parent hive? are they trying to swarm again because there isn't enough space to store nectar only new foundation? help!

beekeeping4you's picture
Hi ciara,

Hi ciara,

Let me add a bit on terminology, Artificial Swarming, as often referred to, has not much to do with a swarm of bees that leaves the hive to take off and travel to a new location. Swarming bees can not take frames, brood and stores with them, they travel to their new home with some honey in their honey stomach and after arrival start to build a brandnew, clean and disease-free set of combs which is soon used for egg-laying, brood rearing and storing of honey and pollen if the weather is suitable for free foraging flights and if nectar is available in abundance.

The foundation you put into your hive on the original position is the base for a new and clean set of combs, but needs lots of wax secreting young bees to be drawn out, and this specific group of worker bees can only sweat out the wax scales and use them for building if either nectar is coming in or (no nectar in reach due to bad weather) sugar syrup is available in sufficient quantities (1:1 is a little bit to thin, our experience is that 1:2 or even 2:3 works better: more sugar/more wax)

should I put in more brood and another frame?
I would not recommend to put in more brood and another frame of brood from the parent hive, it could take up to three weeks before they all have hatched and can start to do the job you want them to do. You could supply them with the necessary workforce immediately by shaking in young bees from the parent hive, best done with a spray of water on both sides of the frame to be shaken so that bees do not fly up (do not use sugar-water for spraying), and do it as late as possible in the afternoon so that not too many (all) bees have a chance to return to the hive they came from. If they have to stay overnight most of them will be happy to again affiliate with their old queen.  Young bees will stay because they do not leave the hive for foraging like the older bees!

are they trying to swarm again?
The small queen cells you found should be cut out if they contain larvae on royal jelly. Cells and empty cells (queen cups) in the wrong place in the middle of an area of open/uncapped brood indicate that your bees are not happy. In this case they usually start raising emergency queens. After removing the queen cells check the state of affairs again after seven days, if you do not find more Qcells they will not attempt to swarm, maybe because of the sudden onset of Summer in Ireland (24 Cel today here in Leitrim). Continue checking regularly, they have last years queen of unknown age and might decide to swarm later in July or even in September! (Can only be counteracted by the introduction of a young queen...)

Whatever you decide to do or try out, all modifications of instructions, interventions or manipulations of anything beekeepers normallly do, has a good chance to result in disaster (in this case reuniting two very weak units later in the year) because: You are trying to control the best adapted hardy Irish domestic black bee which doesn't like to be controlled - my personal summary of over 20 years of beekeeping experience in Ireland.
Bees act according to rules, but not always!

Happy Beekeeping,


the bit on terminology:
Artificial Swarming the Irish way is elsewhere kwown as the Demarree Plan.
Artificial Swarm in the international beekeeping community means: Package Bees!



Hi just say thanks to Reiner

Hi just say thanks to Reiner for that very concise explanation of 'artifical swarming', as a beginer the process always seemed very complicated. I created a new colony three weeks ago from my original hive, my virgin queen has hatched and am waiting to see some eggs soon fingers crossed, this good weather should have helped. Thanks Karin