>Beegee, Michael, anyone else, what do you make of the sparse but definite presence of single eggs in some of the brood cells?
More than likely it's a queen. Laying workers usually don't lay one egg to a cell.
>Also, if there's no queen and there's a remaining queen swarm cell, will she stay put or swarm once emerged?
Can't say. The bees will do what they want. But if there is a queen laying and they have swarmed then it's been a few days or weeks since the swarm right? Otherwise there wouldn't be time for the queen to emerge and mate and start laying. If this is true then maybe the cell you saw isn't going to emerge. I'm always kind of hesitant to go destroying queen cells unless I am absolutely positive there is a queen and that means seeing her.
>When does one throw in the towel and prder a new queen?
It's a tough choice and one I have to make often enough that you'd think I'd have a cut and dried answer. I try to find her. I try to beleive she is there and look for her and look for eggs. If I'm seeing single eggs in cells I would wait and see. If I'm seeing multiple eggs, I'm already in touble, but I'd get a queen and try to introduce her very gradually. If you're not seeing any eggs and can't find the queen, it may be that a virgin is just to fast for you. They hide from the light and sometimes it takes a week or a week and a half for them to emerge, mate and start laying regulary. I have often bought a queen because I thought they were queenless and then found a different queen when I checked the hive next. The problem is that sometimes I've been sure there must be a virgin queen and ended up with a laying worker.
>And any recommendations from whom to order? Dale, you're in the mid-Atlantic. Where do you get new queens when needed?
I'm not in the mid-Atlantic, but I just bought some from McCary that looked nice. I haven't had them long enough to say how they will do, but everyone else who has them seems to love them. I've ordered from Walter T. Kellys and liked them. I've gotten them from Hardemans and Wilbanks and liked them. I've gotten them from B Weaver for years and only recently had any problems with them and they are saying they are aware of that and are breeding for gentleness again.
Michael, thanks again for your input. For some reason, your uncertainty is comforting, perhaps underlining the art as well as science of beekeeping.
What would happen if there was a queen there that I missed and I ordered and tried to introduce a new one?
I have just done this. I had a hive of Carnolians that appeared to be queenless. I bought a Russian queen that was a brown colored queen. I introduced the queen and it seemed to go well. When I checked later, I found a black queen, unmarked so she wasn't the original queen, and not brown, so she wasn't the Russian queen that I introduced. Obviously they kept their queen, which was probably a virgin and why I didn't find her or any eggs, and killed the Russian that I put in. Worse case is they kill the new queen and keep the one they raised. If you don't try to introduce a queen, worst case is you end up with a laying worker and best case is you saved some money.
One thing I will say, I'm getting better at spotting virgin queens. If you understand them you'll find them more often. They are very shy of the light. One method mentioned by someone else in finding queens, was to take a few frames out to make room and push pairs of frames together. She will tend to end up in between the frames where it's dark. A virgin moves very quickly. Not at all like a laying queen. A laying queen doesn't usually try to move fast. A virgin can run so fast and do it while hiding behind every worker she can. You have to look differently to find her. Look behind workers, look more then once or twice. Look the comb over several times and don't look so slowly as you do with a laying queen. At least not the first couple of glances. Look for rapid movement across the comb from further away. If there is a virgin queen, odds are she's hiding behind some workers or hiding on an end or hiding where there is less light.
I'll recap. The difficulty is that when the queens lose a queen (squished on an end bar etc.) and go to raise a new one you will reach a point where all of the brood has emerged before you reach the point where the new queen is laying. If you inspect the hive at this point it appears to be queenless when it is not. You requeen and they kill the queen. You leave it alone and they do fine.
The other senerio is that the queen was killed and they failed to raise a new one. More than likely they end up queenless because the queen got killed (proably by getting squished on an end bar) the bees were rasing a new one and the two or three queen cell they were raising got destroyed when you were inspecting (this is VERY easy to do) and the one that didn't get destroyed didn't make it for other reasons and now they have no queen. When you inspect this hive it's indistinguishable from the hive with the virgin queen. There are little hints that help. Supercedure or emergency cells that have the cap opened (not the side opened) are an indication that a queen has emerged. Of course the other problem is sometimes she goes off to mate and doesn't come back. So this isn't proof that she's there.
Another scenerio is that the bees swarm. They have a couple of afterswarms and either by bad planning (ALL the queens swarmed) or a queen that doesn't manage to emerge or a queen battle that results in both combatants dying they end up with no queen. You inspect and find queen cells that have the caps opened indicating an emerging queen but the question is did she swarm? Did she die in combat? Is she here?
The only sure way to know you have a queen is find her or fresh unhatched eggs. Everything else is helpful but still speculation. If you add a frame of eggs and there is a laying worker, they may or may not raise a new queen. But if they do raise one you know they had a good reason. If you buy and queen and introduce her and there is a laying worker they may kill the store bought queen and still be queenless.
I know it's confusing. The thing to do is learn to spot a virgin queen. http://www.beesource.com/ubb/smile.gif Frequent inspections and good notes are helpful because you can get a better time frame of when you last saw the queen or fresh eggs and if there were queen cells and if they seemed to have dropped population suddenly (swarmed but you didn't witness it). This is all helpful information in trying to figure out where you are in the scheme of things.
Thanks, Michael. I'm going in again later today. Just trying to understand why all this swarming occurred -- if that's possible -- what do you think about all the nectar/water stored in the brood cells? Does that provide a clue about overheating? And is it possible that I encouraged too rapid colony growth with abundant syrup feeding?
[This message has been edited by dcromwel (edited July 08, 2003).]
>Thanks, Michael. I'm going in again later today. Just trying to understand why all this swarming occurred -- if that's possible
Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. Crowding causing swarming, but some people don't seem to understand it's often crowding in the brood chamber, not just the hive. Lake of ventilation I think contributes to the bees' perception that it's crowded. Slatted racks, Screened Bottom Boards, ventilation systems all help with this and cut down on swarming. But sometimes you have to accept that bees swarm. It's what they do. Usually it's your fault, but sometimes they have just made up their mind to reproduce. If you keep bees, some of them will swarm.
>what do you think about all the nectar/water stored in the brood cells? Does that provide a clue about overheating?
My guess is, that it's nectar and it's there because the queen quit laying and they just filled it in. Usually when they get a queen they move it back out of the way. If it was there BEFORE they swarmed, then maybe the brood nest was full of honey.
>And is it possible that I encouraged too rapid colony growth with abundant syrup feeding?
No. But it could have contributed to a honey bound brood nest.
OK. Today's inspection completed. If there's a queen in there, I didn't see her and she's a non-egg-laying type of queen. Absolutely no apparent single (or multiple) eggs in any brood cells. I do have one remaining capped swarm cell.
Question: is there any way to predict which would be better between letting the swarm cell hatch versus re-queening with a new store-bought queen version. Would a swarm cell queen be more likely to take off with half of my reamining bees?
As an aside, I noticed today a slight temperament change in this previously very mild-mannered colony of bees....a little more short tempered as I nudged and pushed them arouns the hive than has previously been the case.
>OK. Today's inspection completed. If there's a queen in there, I didn't see her and she's a non-egg-laying type of queen. Absolutely no apparent single (or multiple) eggs in any brood cells. I do have one remaining capped swarm cell.
If you have a capped swarm cell then there probably hasn't been time for a queen to emerge, mate and start laying. But if you can't find her perhaps she isn't there.
>Question: is there any way to predict which would be better between letting the swarm cell hatch versus re-queening with a new store-bought queen version. Would a swarm cell queen be more likely to take off with half of my reamining bees?
If there is no other queen in there they will not swarm. I would let the swarm cell hatch, myself. Some would buy a queen for more predictable genetics.
>As an aside, I noticed today a slight temperament change in this previously very mild-mannered colony of bees....a little more short tempered as I nudged and pushed them arouns the hive than has previously been the case.
It may because you've been messing with them a lot. It may be because they don't have a queen. Both will make them edgy.
Michael, how long would you wait to reinspect and hope to find either a new queen or eggs?
Beekeeping for dummies said one week after the swarm.
Also, a related question: do you know where I can purchase the plunger type of queen marking system? The only place I could find on the net was in Europe.
>how long would you wait to reinspect and hope to find either a new queen or eggs?
Beekeeping for dummies said one week after the swarm.
You can tip the brood box back to look for the swarm cell and not go through the whole thing. See if they queen emerged. I'd probably check that every three days or so just to see if it emerged. If you wait too long they will have just torn it down. YOu want to make sure the queen emerged. If the queen has emereged I'd wait another week or so and look for the queen. Unfortunatly it's very hard to find a virgin queen. In aother week she will probably be mated and several days later will start to lay. Unfortunately if they are queenless this long you could end up with a laying worker.
>Also, a related question: do you know where I can purchase the plunger type of queen marking system? The only place I could find on the net was in Europe.
Better bee has them. Beeworks has them.
Glory be. Mother nature (and the bees) took care of business. I inspected the hive today, 2 weeks after our spectacular July 4th swarm (30,000 bees in a 40-50 foot vortex was a sight to behold), Michael-the-expert-moderator walked me through the home-grown versus store-bought management decision, I let them do their own thing, and lo and behold, a beautiful looking queen there today identified even by this rookie. Lots of single eggs in the 2 brood frames I pulled up into the food chamber and the rest of the food chamber frames nearly filled with capped honey.
However, no eggs in the brood chamber down below, and still plenty of comb building to do. So, I reversed the boxes; put brood box on top of food box.
Was that the right thing?