Warre hive mystery - where'd that new queen come from?
Newbeek here, totally baffled by what's happening in our modified Warre from Sweet Valley Hives: We installed on April 20 in Philadelphia, and have had very cold weather. Queen was released with some help from us on Day 5. After a couple more weeks of chilly weather, we opened the hive last night as we had no visual confirmation of capped brood. The population had definitely been dwindling which of course makes sense. Yesterday was day 26 in the hive. A few days before, we had seen three small wax cell caps on the screened bottom board: honey colored and concave on one side, lighter, convex and bumpy on the other.
So, back to last night's opening: once we got the roof, quilt, and screen off, we pulled out one frame at a time, starting further away from the colony. One bar was completely empty, the next had a little comb, a few bees, and nectar, then things got more dense. As far as we could tell, though, there was no capped brood anywhere. Lots of nectar and some capped honey along the top. Maybe a couple of drone cells? Also, yikes, some queen cups on the comb face and a few along the bottom edge of one comb.
We found the queen on the fourth comb, and here's the weird thing: she was not the queen that came with our package! This one had no red dot and her abdomen was pale gold and not striped. But definitely a queen. Also, one of the queen cups had an apparently lifeless bee emerging from the opening. Since we had found the queen I decided not to pull the last bars but now I regret not checking for capped brood.
So… What do you all think happened? We have three ideas:
1. The package queen was deemed unfit early on, and the bees superseded her early. The queen we saw was the victorious new queen, possibly still virgin? (She was pretty skinny) Doesn't bode well for the colony growing.
2. There was a second non-caged queen in the package we got? That might explain the reluctance of the colony to get the package queen out of her cage. But then there should be brood by now?
3. I wonder if the bees put a lot of effort into comb building early on, but then had to focus on foraging, and filled the existing comb with nectar leaving little room for laying. Might they then feel like they were too crowded with no room for brood, and swarm? Were the cells we saw swarm cells and not supersedure cells? The colony looks small enough to me at this point that a small swarm in the past few days does not seem impossible.
Re: Warre hive mystery - where'd that new queen come from?
Ideas 1 and 3 probably. Maybe the queen got injured along the way and was replaced.
Either way keep an eye out on the queens performance, one reared in a small colony without plentiful stores may not turn out to be a good queen and need to be replaced.
Eggs are very hard to spot if you don't look very carefully for them, you queen may have laid some in the last few days and soon they will turn in to larva, which are much easier to spot. So check in a day or two and be prepared to get a new queen.
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