Swarming can be an issue during May. Please also read our Article about "Swarming"

Cutting Queen Cells

By tipping the second brood super and glancing along the bottom, the presence of swarm cells can be easily detected. A few puffs of smoke along the frame bottom bars will drive the bees up into the super and will help to reveal queen cells which may have been covered with bees. If no queen cells are present, it is usually safe to assume that the colony is not at present preparing to swarm.


 Most hives will build swarm cell cups along the bottom bars, but these do not necessarily indicate the urge to swarm unless eggs are found in the cups. If queen cells are located they can be cut off. At this point, it is advisable to remove the second brood super and check frames in both the first and second supers for additional queen cells. If there are large numbers of bees on the brood combs, shake these bees off the frames to further examine the combs.

Clipping Queens

Some beekeepers practice clipping the wings of old queens. This will provide a temporary control only, as when the old queen is unable to fly out with the swann, the bees will return and await the hatching of a young queen after which they will again swarm ont. Clipping is a very delicate operation as it is very easy to crush the queen; the practice of clipping should be avoided if at all possible.

CAUTION: Never clip the wings of a virgin queen. If this is done, and it is sometimes, she would then be unable to fly out on her mating flight.

Using a "Top" for Swarm Control 

If you find a capped queen cell you may want to think about starting a ‘top’.

This is one good method of ‘swarm control’. A ‘top’ is a separate box on top of the original hive with the entrance facing the opposite direction with a thin piece of plywood separating the two boxes. This allows the heat only to transfer through not any bees from the original hive on the bottom. This means you only have to use 1 bottom board and 1 top cover to make 2 separate colonies.

In the ‘top’ add a frame of bees and a frame of honey and pollen if you can. The 1st frame has the queen cell plus attendants on it, the 2nd has honey & pollen and the 3rd is primarily bees. You need foragers too. By doing this you can replace the 3 frames you took from the bottom original box giving the queen there more room which reduces the urge to swarm.

Fill up the extra space in the top new box with empty drawn frames if you have them.



  • Check hives for queen swarm cells, disease, stores and space requirements.
  • Reverse brood chamber during regular checks. For colonies started from packages, add a second brood chamber as soon as bees have begun to occupy the outside frames of the first brood chamber.
  • Use drawn combs when available or a super of foundation with one or two drawn combs in the middle. These combs may be removed from the bottom brood chamber and replaced with foundation.
  • There should be lots of pollen coming in now. Check for sufficient stores.
  • Add supers of combs or foundation as required to provide room for expanding bee population and for the storing of surplus honey.
  • If a queen excluder is used, place it over the second brood chamber. Do not use a queen excluder if foundation is used in the third box. 
  • Select a few colonies at random in the apiary and test for Varroa. When mite levels are high (approx. 60+ on sticky board after 24 hours), remove honey supers and apply recommended numbers of strips for a few days. Remove strips and replace honey supers