First swarm experience—seeking advice!

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New Bee
May 13, 2024
Reaction score
Vancouver, BC
Number of Hives
Hi everyone,

We’re new-ish (4th year) beekeepers dealing with our first swarm/post-swarm experience.

The background: On April 20 we split an overwintered hive (2 deep & busy brood boxes), after finding a charged queen cell and a cup with an egg in it, for swarm prevention purposes. We used the walk-away method, kept the queen in the box in the new location and left the hive in the old location to raise a new queen. Both had 7–8 full frames of eggs / brood in all stages / food. We added additional supers to each.

Last Wednesday (May 8) the old-location hive swarmed anyway, alas. Presumably they left with the first virgin queen that hatched.

The current situation: During yesterday’s inspection, we found a new charged queen cell in the NEW-location hive, with the overwintered, productive queen. She’s still going strong – we saw her yesterday and there’s plenty of eggs in that hive.

So, my question is: what does this single, charged queen cell indicate? Is this hive likely to swarm too, or is it more likely supercedure? There was only this one cell, and the few cups were all empty. We knocked down the queen cell to try to buy ourselves a few more days (we’re hobbyists with somewhat inflexible work schedules) and plan to check for cells again next Saturday. If we find some, can we split that hive AGAIN? Is that likely to prevent further swarm activity, or no?

I should mention that we’re urban beekeepers (hives in a public park) and want to avoid swarms as much as possible, for the usual reasons but also to maintain the goodwill of the neighbourhood we’re in. If we split the Q+ hive again, we’d have to give away one half, because we’re not allowed to have more than 2 hives in the park…

Any thoughts or advice HUGELY appreciated. Happy to provide more info if I’ve forgotten anything important! Thanks so much.
In retrospect, what you should have done is taken the queen away in a nuc on just one frame of brood, a frame of drawn comb with plenty of laying space, a frame of stores and the rest, foundation. just moving them a few feet away would have been sufficient.
you then needed to go into the 'main colony and reduced the queen cells to one, then go in again a few days, and a week later to check for any more queen cells and tear them down. As you rightly said, there must have been more than one queen cell in there and when the first one emerged, you lost a prime swarm headed by the first virgin out.
by splitting them in half you still ended up with two functioning colonies, so the queenright one, although most of the 'flying' bees (the swarm instigators) returned to the original location, probably still have swarm fever, so personally I wouldn't trust that one cell to be a supersedure attempt.
plan to check for cells again next Saturday. If we find some, can we split that hive AGAIN?
I would
Thank you both so much for your replies! This is very helpful. And hindsight is always valuable. I'm going to read up on vertical splits.

So, follow-up questions:

1. Re. the old (Q-) hive – during yesterday's inspection (a few days post-swarm) we found two queen cells (sealed), no eggs, and didn't spot a virgin queen. I know it's a bit early yet to expect eggs, but should we assume that there's a virgin running around in there (or out on a flight) and therefore destroy those two other queen cells to prevent cast swarms? Or should we just leave them be for another week? Our plan was to requeen that hive Saturday if we still didn't see eggs. I now understand why destroying extra cells early on is the sensible thing!

2. Re. vertical split for new (Q+) hive – how/when will we know the swarm instinct has passed and it's safe to recombine? We don't have a split board — could we modify an inner cover with some screen to serve the same purpose?

3. Re. the nuc box split for new (Q+) hive—our original plan, if we have to go that route for whatever reason—does the queen have to go in the nuc box, or can we keep her in the current location? We'd prefer to keep her if possible! As I mentioned, we'd have to give the nuc away.

Thanks again!!
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You could do a vertical split so it is still "one hive" and reunite once they have got over it.
Thanks so much again for this suggestion. It's exactly the solution we needed.

How soon do you think it would be safe to recombine them? Maybe two weeks after the split?

And in the meantime, I figure we should keep the queenless half of this split queenless (remove all queen cells)?