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If you can find the queen:

  1. Move original hive to one side, a metre or two away

  2. Put a new floor and brood chamber with frames of foundation or drawn comb on the original site

  3. Inspect frames in the original hive and find the frame with the old queen

  4. Make sure there are NO queen cells on this frame

  5. Move this frame (ensure the queen cannot be lost) and an adjacent frame into the new brood chamber in the centre of the frames, on the original site

  6. Add a frame of stores to the new brood chamber

  7. Close the new brood chamber

  8. Feed syrup in the evening

  9. In the original hive (off to one side), destroy any sealed queen cells; leave unsealed queen cells in place

  10. Leave the Super on the original box

  11. In the original box, a new queen will emerge, mate and begin laying after around 4 weeks

  12. The workers in the new box will build comb

  13. Flying bees that are returning, will go to the new box on the original site


  1. Remove charged queen cells

  2. Split the brood chamber

  3. Inspect every 3 days and remove queen cells from the box that has the queen

  4. The other half will make more queen cells and can be used to make Nucs

Anchor 2


Bees swarm when there is a reduction in the amount or distribution of Queen Pheromone within the hive. This can be a result of:

  1. A failing or exhausted queen

  2. Overcrowded brood chamber

  3. Lack of ventilation

Unless the beekeeper recognizes the signs of imminent swarming or performs an artificial swarm procedure, part of the colony may be lost.

To prepare for swarming, workers will have built queen cells and fed the larvae in them only with royal jelly, sealing the cells on day 8.

At this stage, provided weather conditions are suitable, the flying bees will leave the hive accompanied by the queen – gorging themselves on stores prior to departure, to provide for their needs until re-established.

The swarm will typically rest within 50-100 meteres, in a cluster, and will send scout bees to find a suitable new home. The swarm is benign at this stage and relatively easy to capture. When several scout bees report a good site, the swarm will move in and work will start to draw wax.

Catching Swarms

Even though the bees are more passive at this time, it is advisable to wear a bee suit and gloves and have a smoker to hand. Depending on where the swarm has settled, a ladder, secateurs, a skep or Nuc box and a large pillowcase and sheet may be required. A frame of brood, without bees, may be needed to coax the swarm into the Nuc box.

It is good practice to have another beekeeper to assist and to lessen the chance of accidents or property damage.

If the swarm has landed in a shrub or bush, the branch can be cut with secateurs or shaken directly into a skep.

If the swarm has landed on a fence-post, it can be collected by holding the inverted box or skep over it and gently smoking the bees.

If the swarm is high on a wall or in a tree, the frame of brood can be introduced to the bees and shook into the skep bit-by-bit. Sam Laverty's DIY catcher, using a pole and large water bottle, is shown on the right.

In some cases, careful handfuls of bees can be moved into the skep or box – a careful search for the queen and having her in the first handful will speed up this process.

After most bees are in, place the skep or box on the sheet, prop the edge up and return in an hour or two. The skep or box can then be wrapped in the sheet and taken away.

Hiving Swarms

Place the collected swarm in quarantine away from the apiary until it can be inspected for disease and pests.

It is essential to have spare hive equipment available and ready to be used. You will need:

  • A brood box with frames and foundation

  • If possible, a frame of drawn comb

  • A frame of brood, without bees, will encourage the swarm to stay

Bees can be knocked directly into an empty Super placed above the brood chamber.

Feed the colony immediately with 50% strength syrup, as they will have no stores and need energy to rapidly draw out comb for the queen to lay eggs and to build stores.

Assess the bees for evidence of varroa infestation and nosema. Carefully inspect the new brood, when at the larval stage for signs of EFB or AFB.

The beekeeper can also assess the colony’s temperament during the quarantine period, its productivity and the quality of the queen.

If laying begins in a day or two, the queen is an older mated queen in a primary swarm.

If the swarm is led by an unmated queen, it will be three or so weeks before eggs are seen.

Swarm Prevention

  • Choose a queen whose characteristic genetic line is low in swarming behaviour

  • Change the queen for a younger queen during swarming season (May and June)

  • Provide adequate space for brood expansion, honey production and ventilation, such as a second brood box or brood and a half without a queen excluder

  • Early Supering

These actions will assist in the distribution of queen pheromone, which suppresses queen cell production.

Regular weekly inspections should be performed to look for queen cells.

Queen Cups    >   Polished Cups    >    Eggs in Queen Cup   >  Cup charged with Royal Jelly

The queen cup is then elongated into a queen cell and capped.  At this stage, swarming is inevitable.

Swarm Control - Artificial Swarming

                                        Procedures can result in:

  • Establishment of a new queen

  • Introduction of a new queen strain with better characteristics

  • Production of Nucs for sale

  • Production of Nucs for expansion


Inspect weekly, unless the queen has clipped wings, in which case every 10 days is sufficient. If charged queen cups are found (with larva and royal jelly), immediate action is required as follows:

Artificial Swarming separates the queen and flying bees from the brood and nurse bees.


Anchor 3

If you cannot find the queen:

This approach separates the nurse bees and flying bees from the brood, in a double brood chamber separated by a queen excluder.

Nurse bees will migrate through the QE to the brood.

  1. Move original hive to one side, a metre or two away

  2. Put a new floor and brood chamber with frames of foundation or drawn comb on the original site

  3. Find a frame with one good unsealed charged queen cell, then brush (do not shake) the bees off this frame and put it in the middle of the original box (mark with a pin to easily find it later)

  4. Take a frame of unsealed brood and NO queen cells (if necessary, remove queen cells) and put it in the middle of the new box to encourage the bees to stay

  5. Carefully shake all remaining bees into the new box, one frame at a time

  6. Inspect all frames (except the one with a pin) in the original box for other queen cells and remove them

  7. Assemble as follows:                           

Anchor 4

Cut-outs and Removal

Beekeepers perform removal procedures from roofs, walls, floors etc and extract a colony. This can involve removing plaster, bricks or floorboards to gain access.

After 24 hours, nurse bees will have returned to the brood in the original upper box. 

The upper box can then be moved to form a new colony.


After 4 days, inspect both colonies for emergency queen cells and remove.

Do not disturb the lower box as the  colony will be raising a new queen.

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