Re: Laying worker...caught!
As of today, I can unequivocably state that this is NOT true.
Originally Posted by Tenbears
Odd that this should come up now. One of my hives that I inspected today has signs of a laying worker (at least one), with three to eight eggs in each cell, and at least one frame with a whole bunch of bullet-capped drone cells in the midst of normal brood cells. This hive is also queenright, with the queen having been directly observed and laying a good pattern, plenty of eggs and larvae along with capped brood. The queen does not appear to be failing, but she is coexisting with one or more laying workers and producing normal brood.
In a queenright colony with a failing queen not producing enough worker brood to suppress the ovaries of the workers, will workers 'take over' laying duties in the drone cells but coexist with the queen and allow her to lay females?
This particular hive was one of the ones that had a tough time of it during this miserably long winter we just had. They were one of the ones that I judged did not have enough stores and received an extra [full] super as insurance (all of my supers that had been destined for extraction were given to weak hives, I only kept the cut-comb supers). Even with the extra super, they had managed to get themselves clustered to one side of the hive instead of being in the middle, and I also had to add fondant and 'mountain camp' sugar in Feb/Mar.
The hypothesis that I am formulating as I write this, is that there were actually TWO separate clusters, the second of which was not observed by me, maybe lower down and toward the other side of the hive. Coming into spring, as cold as it was, the two clusters were separated by enough distance and stayed that way long enough for the laying worker(s) to develop. (They were also hit pretty hard with Nosema.)
It remains to be seen whether the laying worker(s) will be suppressed and things return to normal, or if I will simply have to corral the queen and all of the normal brood and remove them to another hive. Very peculiar, I've never seen anything like this before...but I've only been doing it for four or five years or so. I also had thought that this particular hive was Italians, but this queen most definitely has Carniolan blood in her...this could be my error and I'm misremembering, not an entirely impossible thing since along with being a bad beekeeper I also purely suck at record-keeping- I have no notes to confirm and with the splits I made last year, along with bringing in the Italians, I really have no way of knowing for sure.
Another hive, which for sure was/is Italians was in even worse shape and barely made it, despite receiving TWO extra supers of honey, and supplemented with sugar and fondant, but has not developed the same problem. The queen was observed and is laying well now. They were almost goners, but they got some brood and nurse bees from one of the Carni hives a couple of weeks ago, and I think they are going to make it.
(Side note: it probably would have been more cost-effective to just let them (all of the weak hives) die and sell the honey, which would have been worth more than what it would have cost to replace the bees...but, yeah, I couldn't do that. I still see them more as "pets" rather than resources to be used up and replaced. I'm a little 'soft' that way...fact is, I care more about my bees dying than most people I know. Yeah, I know, I'm a bad beekeeper in more ways than one.)
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