While pulling supers yesterday, I noticed a queen that was on the top of my queen excluder, desperately trying to get down below it (I'm guessing she was trying to hide from the sun). I didn't want her to hurt herself so I pulled the frames I wanted to extract, left a super of empty comb up top, and quickly closed up the hive while I figured out what to do with her.
It's possible I created this situation in the spring when I placed a queen excluder between the upper deep and a super that had overwintered on the hive (which included eggs/brood as well as honey at the time). My thought process then was that the brood in the super would eventually hatch and they would backfill those combs with honey. Now I am wondering if they turned one of those eggs into a queen!?
Am I overthinking this? Maybe my queen just managed to get above the excluder somehow? There was no brood in the supers, or eggs that I could see, in any of the frames I removed for extraction yesterday. The rest of the frames in supers on the hive are empty and getting cleaned before winter storage.
So either this was a virgin queen or just a very curious one who got stuck north of the border. I'm not sure if I will have the chance to do a complete inspection of the hive and determine if there is another queen in the deeps, so my question is: should I turn this one loose in the hive and risk a possible confrontation between the two queens (if there are two!) or do I remove her and wait to see how the hive reacts? I don't think either option is particularly great as the days are getting colder here!