Beekeeping Notes April 23, 2020


The locust is blooming down around Bowling Green. That means that it will be blooming up in this area within the next two weeks. I always look at the locust as being the real beginning of the nectar flow. SOOO! Be sure that you have your honey supers on and entrance reducers removed. Be sure to do a quick check (not an inspection) of your hives ever 5 to 7 days because if there is a strong nectar flow, the bees will fill up a medium super in a week of less.


Recently if have received several calls about Beekeepers finding capped queen cells in their hives.


  • “DO NOT REMOVE THE QUEEN CELLS”; if you remove the queen cells, you are disrupting the natural activity of the beehive and you will not necessarily stop it from swarming, BUT you will most like end up with a queen less beehive.
  • This is a natural occurring activity for beehives to start developing queen cells when either the current queen has died or has lost her ability to keep laying. The beehive knows this and they take action to create a new queen.
  • It is much easier to allow the hive to requeen its self than it is to go buy one and install it. You never know these days about purchased queen’s survivability.
  • Most times, a self-re-queened hive is better.
  • Hives that re-queen naturally during April, May and June usually is a good thing and is successful.
  • Queen cells being present is “NOT” necessarily a sign that the hive is going to swarm. On the other hand, the hive may swarm especially if:
    • The old queen has not died and a new queen takes over. Then the old queen may swarm with some bees.
    • There can be more than one queen hatch out, and in this case, they may fight it out and to the winner goes the hive.
    • Or, you may actually see a primary swarm followed by a couple of supplemental little swarms; each having a queen.

I recently removed two swarms that were on the ground from the same old cheery tree, and 3 days later, there was another swarm from that same tree. The bees have been in that old cherry tree for over 20 years. There is still a lot of bees in that tree today.

Last year, I had four or five hives that generated queen cells and I allowed them to go ahead and finish the process. I got at least 2 honey supers off each of them and all of them survived the winter and are healthy hives today.

Supplemental information on Queen Cells

Sometimes, but not always, you can determine if a colony is preparing to swarm or just replacing a under-performing queen.  A colony preparing to swarm will typically have queen cells located on the edges of brood frames and they may be six or more with as many as 20.  A colony replacing a failing queen will usually have queen cells located in the middle of brood frames with six or fewer. If a colony has both queen cells on edges and in the middle of brood frames it is best to treat as a swarm situation.


The biggest cause for a hive to swarm is because it has run out of room in the brood bodies due to frames being full of nectar, pollen and capped brood and there is not sufficient space in the hive for the queen to keep laying nor is there adequate space to accommodate the growing population of bees. The other reason is the re-queening process and the lack of room in the hive.

Frame Management: Remove several full frames of nectar/pollen and replace with empty frames. VERY IMPORTANT: The queen needs a minimum of 4 to 5 frames to lay in each brood box.

Hive Management: Add another hive box to help accommodate the population of bees.

If the hive is extremely over crowed and packed full--- it is a great idea to split/divide the hive and add a new hive box to each--- a deep or medium depending on your hive setup. But be sure to do the Frame Management as well.

The over crowed situation happens often. I have had it happen to some of my hives. If I catch it soon enough, I practice “aggressive” frame management. If I don’t catch it soon enough, then I always split the hive.

** If you split/divide be sure to closely follow the ground rules for the type of split that you do.

Happy Beekeeping—Stay Safe and Stay Healthy


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