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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Camino, CA
    Posts
    66

    Default Queenless Hive? Need Help Quick

    First year beekeeper and I've got 4 hives but this is a question about one that swarmed on me 3 times this year and has continuously superseded queens since.

    Last week I was checking out my hives and noticed that this particular hive seemed more agitated than normal. Now these hives are only 200ft from my front door so i spend a lot of time watching them so I noticed something was up. Later that evening after things had quieted down I went out and could hear the telltale loud hum/low roar coming from the hive and thought for sure the hive was queenless so I waited a few days and decided to inspect it to see what i had. To my dismay I found only newly hatched and older larvae but no eggs and I did find about 8 supercedure cells. At this point I decided if the hive was queenless I would requeen as we don't have many drones anymore and I want this hive to build up before winter so I removed the supersedure cells. I went back in a few days later to look for any evidence of eggs(which I didn't find) removed more supersedure cells and ordered my new queen. Each time I went in I looked to see if there were any recently hatched queen cells and I also checked the existing ones for any evidence that they may have been killed by a new queen but never found any.

    Today I went in to install the new queen and make sure I had removed all the queen cells and examine for eggs. I found one queen cell that I opened only to find a well formed queen pupae that was glistening white and appeared to still be alive in every respect so I assumed there were no new queens in the hive. I decided to check for eggs 1 more time and to my dismay I found one egg in a newly built queen cup at the bottom of a frame but that was it... I went through every frame twice and never found another.

    Now when I do inspections I wear reading glasses so I have no trouble seeing and identifying eggs and I'm sure as I can be that there wasn't another egg in the hive but then where did this one come from and why weren't there any others and why was it in a swarm cell cup. None of the queen cells had been killed, no eggs for over a week but the egg came from somewhere and that's what is confusing me... I have a new queen that needs to be installed, I haven't found another but the few drones in the hive are dark so I've had a little trouble finding dark queens in the past.

    Sorry for rambling but what should i do? Only one egg in over a week and in a queen cup no less... Do I install the queen in her cage and wait a few days to see what happens or do I continue to inspect the hive to see what happens over the next few day?

    Thanks for your help

    John

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Elmira, NY
    Posts
    947

    Default Re: Queenless Hive? Need Help Quick

    John,

    As certain as you are there were no eggs last time you looked, the only way that there can be an egg in the queen cup that I know of is for a queen to put it there. ( A laying worker would lay drones, not start a queen cell)

    If it were me, I'd put a pollen patty in, and (unless you are on a strong flow) start feeding sugar syrup to ensure your queen is well fed and unlikely to be superceded. If you have been in drought as many have, poor nutrition may be the reason for so many supercedures.
    But I would do that quickly - the cell will be capped by Sunday.

    Queens normally do not mate with drones from their own colonies.
    They go to what are called "drone congregation areas" where drones and queens from many miles around gather to mate.

    Then I'd leave it alone of three or four weeks before checking to see if your queen is mated and laying. If not, get a queen then.

    I'd also put a frame of open brood in the hive - one with eggs and very young larvae.
    This will do 2 things: keep brood pheromone strong and prevent laying workers if your cell should fail, and give them what they need to make another cell or two for insurance if the one should fail to emerge for any reason.
    When the first queen emerges, she'll destroy the "insurance" cells.

    Even though your "swarm cell" might be on the bottom edge of a comb it's actually not a swarm cell, but an emergency cell.
    The bees will use best available cell, like one at the bottom which they can build down from immediately and get a better queen.
    With a cell on the face of the comb, they have to flood the cell w/ royal jelly before building the Queen cell, floating the larva up to the mouth of the cell first.

    So don't worry, raising this cell will not result in a swarm.

    But if it is well fed as I suggest, it is likely to result in a very fine queen.

    Have fun.
    Enjoy your bees.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Fort Wayne, IN
    Posts
    868

    Default Re: Queenless Hive? Need Help Quick

    My wife gave me some good advice a few years back, "leave the bees alone, they know what they are doing". When I told the late, great George Imrie that, his comment was, "you have a very wise wife."

    Sounds like you might be over beekeeping and your disturbing the hive that often might be contributing to your problems.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Moyock, NC, USA
    Posts
    207

    Default Re: Queenless Hive? Need Help Quick

    I would have left the cells. You can cut the smaller ones out but leave 2 - 3, You can be naturally requeened and mated and then laying in one month. (That schedule started a day or two before you would have seen the cells)
    If you have other hives then you can steal some eggs and put in the bad hive. They will do the rest.
    Of course you have to worry about successful flight returns but no worse than getting queens accepted. Leave the remaining queen cell for now, if you didn't remove it. You could help them along with food. That wouldn't hurt.
    If you are buying a queen then, somehow you have to find out where these mystery eggs are coming from, to ensure your success.
    If this hive is swarming all the time you should consider getting eggs to raise a queen from the other hive as they are obviously better controlled. (genetics of existing queen and her mates in good hive) This would eventually mean better behaved bees once the old existing bees are gone and the new bees populate the hive with a different gene pool.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Evansville, IN
    Posts
    2,230

    Default Re: Queenless Hive? Need Help Quick

    It is possible for an unmated worker to lay a diploid egg. There is an unpronouncable technical term for this I don't remember, but it does happen, although it's supposed to be rare except in Cape bees from South Africa.

    I've read enough reports of "no queen for weeks but suddenly I found queen cells" to think this may be more common than it's supposed to be. After all, if you didn't check closely enough and missed the queenlessness for a couple weeks, how would you know?

    At any rate, I'm convinced that removing queen cells is a bad idea unless you have a convincing reason to keep a particular set of queen genetics (as in you are breeding them or you live in an AHB zone). Otherwise, a locally mated queen is likely to be better than one bred a thousand miles away in a different climate. You get to skip all the queen acceptance problems, too.

    Another nice thing about 8 supercedure cells is that you get a free queen to start a nuc or two, never a bad idea.

    Peter

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Auburn, NY
    Posts
    428

    Default Re: Queenless Hive? Need Help Quick

    Im going to chime in here with my 2 cents. First year beek so be warned. I disagree with what others said above. I would check, check and check again for a queen. If found, dispatch of her and install the new queen. It sounds like you have the new queen on hand. No reason not to use her if you already have her. If you dont find the old one, try setting the new queen in her cage in the hive and observe. See if they try and attack or welcome her. Try making a spilt or splits and wait to see which one is queenless. Add new queen to that one.

    If you already have the queen, nothing to lose by releasing her, unless you have another hive or other use for her elsewhere. I wouldnt just let her expire.

    Dan

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Camino, CA
    Posts
    66

    Default Re: Queenless Hive? Need Help Quick

    Thanks for your quick responses!!! I'm new at this and appreciate you folks taking the time to help me out.

    I bought this queen because she was born and breed about 60 miles away and most /all of the drones in my 4 full hives were kicked out over a month ago... Only the hive in question seems to have any and I found maybe 5 or 6. The other hives seem to dispatch any new drones as they emerge and I was concerned about the ability of a new queen to be properly mated. I have a few nuc's I started 5 or 6 weeks ago with swarm cells that have had very spotty brood pattern and all are in the process of being superseded so I assumed there may not be enough drones in the area. I guess I"ll just use this new queen in one of those nuc's and let this hive be.

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