Laying worker...caught!
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  1. #1
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    Default Laying worker...caught!

    This observation hive was seeded from a package. I am not sure whats going on with it, but I have watched it intently for the last 3 weeks.
    1. I know there are workers laying eggs. Finally caught one on film. They can and DO stick themselves all the way down in the cell to reach the bottom.
    2. There are loads of drone comb filled with 2-4 eggs that eventually develop into a drone larvae (see the cappings?)
    3. The worker sized cells seem to have one egg per, but some are developing with the dome capping indicative of a drone (dwarf).
    4. There are many worker cells with flat cappings too with larvae that appear not as large as the dwarf drones. I am not certain what will emerge.
    5. The laying pattern is awful as compared to my other hives.
    6. There is a queen cup with something in it on one frame and multiple empty cups on other frames. Not sure if it will make it to emergence or be tore down should they be making a 'King?'
    7. I have not seen the queen in the hive, but its a double wide, so she 'may' be in the middle and really shy.


    This has been very educational and has given me a whole new perspective on hive behavior when things don't go well.
    rsz_resized_img1.jpg

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Laying worker...caught!

    what race of bees are these?

    do you have a photo or can you get one of multiple eggs in the cells.

    from the photo there are lavae so i assume this is a queen right collony? have you seen the queen?

    I was of the belief (apparently incorrectly) that it was only A.M. Capensis that had a tendancy to revert to laying worker with a queen right colony.

    how big is this observation hive out of interest?

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Laying worker...caught!

    Quote Originally Posted by Crispin Jackson View Post

    from the photo there are lavae so i assume this is a queen right collony? have you seen the queen?
    Crispin,

    Laying worker eggs will hatch into larva, they just all develop into drones.
    zone 5b
    Back in 2019!

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Laying worker...caught!

    Quote Originally Posted by Crispin Jackson View Post
    what race of bees are these?

    do you have a photo or can you get one of multiple eggs in the cells.

    from the photo there are lavae so i assume this is a queen right collony? have you seen the queen?

    I was of the belief (apparently incorrectly) that it was only A.M. Capensis that had a tendancy to revert to laying worker with a queen right colony.

    how big is this observation hive out of interest?
    Hi Crispin

    1) It is supposed to be a Carniolan package
    2) Yes, I will upload some more pictures
    3) I know the queen was in there with the package for the first 2 days. I have not seen her since. All eggs were laid about a week after the package was installed. I am not certain it is queenright. With the added pictures of the brood, maybe some folks can weigh in.
    4) It has 10 medium frames.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Laying worker...caught!

    Quote Originally Posted by thehackleguy View Post
    Crispin,

    Laying worker eggs will hatch into larva, they just all develop into drones.
    sure that i know, and they are always drone as the laying workers are not normally fertilised and mated by drones. The brooding pictured here (to my eyes at anyrate) would appear to be normal worker bees (although capped stage is an easier identification) which is what leads me to think its still queen right and that the lavae pictured come from a fertilised queen and not from a laying worker.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Laying worker...caught!

    to be honest i hadnt realised laying worker was such a common occurance in the states. Ive had lots of experience with it in South Africa but i never knew it was such a common thing else where

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Laying worker...caught!

    i must confess this situation would alarm me as a beekeeper and i would be inclined to introduce some frames of newly layed eggs from a queen right collong so if needed the bees cold draw out a few new queen cells else this hive may well crash.

    And id look very carefully for a queen in there as fast as I could.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Laying worker...caught!

    If you have a laying worker, You do not have a queen. The brood as well as pheromones produced by the queen inhibit the development of the ovaries of the laying worker.

    I see brood, and one capped Cell that does not appear to be a drone cell. Bare in mind this is the time of year when drones are produced in greatest numbers in properly developing hives. So the presence of drone brood does not necessarily indicate a problem.

    If you do indeed discover you have a laying worker you will have to add a frame of brood once a week for a minimum of 3 weeks.
    Introducing a new queen is not always possible as the laying worker will kill her. by introducing the brood it subdues the laying worker and allows the bees to make a new queen. Because of the nature of an observation hive, I normally tear down any queen cells they make and introduce a bred queen. This ensures I do not loose the queen during breeding flights, and have to go through it all over again.

    Just for future reference, Never start a observation hive from a package. Place the package in an 8 frame hive and let it develop. Then transfer it to the observation hive with all brood and stores. I have found this works best for them.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Laying worker...caught!

    Some additional pictures:

    Queen cup with larva and royal jelly (approx 2 day old)
    rimg_20150515_150425830.jpg

    note the small red circles with the multiple eggs on the bottom and side of the cells. This whole frame (mostly drone sized cells) had those and is now developing a lot of drones
    rimg_20150515_150210648.jpg

    See the capped brood? Some have rounded tops (dwarf drone I presume) and others are flat which I think are worker brood.
    rimg_20150515_150438001.jpg

    There clearly are laying workers as I have seen them lay. I have not seen the queen, but the flat capped worker sized cells look like worker brood albeit spotty laying pattern.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Laying worker...caught!

    I see a solid pattern of open brood. I never see that with laying workers. I sometimes see it with a drone laying queen. The picture, however, is obviously a laying worker. But then every hive has laying workers. It's just a matter of how many:

    "Although worker honey bees cannot mate, they do possess ovaries and can produce viable eggs; hence they do have the potential to have male offspring (in bees and other Hymenoptera, fertilized eggs produce females while unfertilized eggs produce males). It is now clear, however, that this potential is exceedingly rarely realized as long as a colony contains a queen (in queenless colonies, workers eventually lay large numbers of male eggs; see the review in Page and Erickson 1988). One supporting piece of evidence comes from studies of worker ovary development in queenright colonies, which have consistently revealed extremely low levels of development. All studies to date report far fewer than 1 % of workers have ovaries developed sufficiently to lay eggs (reviewed in Ratnieks 1993; see also Visscher 1995a). For example, Ratnieks dissected 10,634 worker bees from 21 colonies and found that only 7 had moderately developed egg (half the size of a completed egg) and that just one had a fully developed egg in her body."--Thomas Seeley, Wisdom of the Hive
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Laying worker...caught!

    One thing that may be unique is that this whole hive started from a package with nothing but drawn comb - meaning there is a possibility that it never established who was the queen and therefore was not policing the laying workers leading to a more solid pattern of eggs that actually make it to larvae. I started observing workers laying after Day 13 post install but have not seen the queen after Day 2 (I spend hours watching them). They workers seem to favor the drone sized cells, but they do squeeze themselves into the worker size cells to lay - quite funny seeing their wings bend along their backs to fit down in there.

    Clearly something is laying in worker brood cells - some get capped as domes, others are flat. What emerges is yet to be seen.

    Question:
    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?
    Last edited by Zbee; 05-15-2015 at 02:30 PM.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Laying worker...caught!

    Quote Originally Posted by Tenbears View Post

    Just for future reference, Never start a observation hive from a package. Place the package in an 8 frame hive and let it develop. Then transfer it to the observation hive with all brood and stores. I have found this works best for them.
    I would typically agree and the last time I seeded an observation hive, I did exactly what you recommend. I was more interested in observing how a package starts given the opportunity only comes up so often (ideally) to witness. This package has not disappointed in spite of the colony having clear issues.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Laying worker...caught!

    I don't know enough to comment on your situation but world really like to know:
    You have had the OH for two weeks? How many hours per day do you watch the hive? Total? Do you have a regular job?

    I really want to build a OH but I am pretty sure my wife is right. I would spend hours upon hours watching it. Probably call in sick a few days the first week.

    Just curious.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Laying worker...caught!

    Quote Originally Posted by tazke View Post
    I don't know enough to comment on your situation but world really like to know:
    You have had the OH for two weeks? How many hours per day do you watch the hive? Total? Do you have a regular job?

    I really want to build a OH but I am pretty sure my wife is right. I would spend hours upon hours watching it. Probably call in sick a few days the first week.

    Just curious.
    Hi Taske,

    I have had an Observation Hive for 2 years now. This is my 2nd iteration. I work from home on a normal day schedule, but spend 20-30 mins a time watching my girls throughout the day and evening. In total, I probably spend about an hour a day in total, even after the novelty wore off. I find so much to see. I do cover them up when I am not watching them as my guests either think its the coolest thing ever, or they wont come inside.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Laying worker...caught!

    Quote Originally Posted by Tenbears View Post
    If you have a laying worker, You do not have a queen. The brood as well as pheromones produced by the queen inhibit the development of the ovaries of the laying worker.
    As of today, I can unequivocably state that this is NOT true.

    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?
    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.

    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.)
    If you want to be successful, study successful people and do what they do.
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  17. #16
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    Default Re: Laying worker...caught!

    i would say that supering that hive lead to the onset of laying worker and in my experience will lead to a collapse of the collony over time if you dont step in. By adding that super, you would have caused two distinct clusters of bees, which leads to a drop in the queen rights pheremone.

    In South Africa A.M. Capensis is well known as a laying worker and causes huge issues for beekeeper. If you replace newly spun wet and drawn comb back onto a hive after extraction you cause a cluser of bees to move up into the supers to clean up the honey and repair the comb. If it gets cold they will cluser seperately to the brood chamber. This leads to a drop in the queen mandibular pheremone and the cape bees believe that they have lost their queen, revert to laying worker and you get a mass outbreak of layers in a very short time.

    these produce drone as we know and stop foraging, pheremone levels rise and as a collective smell out power the queen right pheremone of the strain of bees you want. this leads her to being neglected or balled and the laying workers to be fed and protected (in most cases). Once all the stores are used up the last ladies stading are unfortuantly the psuedo queens (laying workers) whom either swarm and try start a collony or abscond and being high in pheremones often walk straight into a neighboring hive.

    Laying worker is the primary reason behind the collapse of the bee industry in South Africa, just ahead of vandalism.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Laying worker...caught!

    Quote Originally Posted by Crispin Jackson View Post
    i would say that supering that hive lead to the onset of laying worker and in my experience will lead to a collapse of the collony over time if you dont step in. By adding that super, you would have caused two distinct clusters of bees, which leads to a drop in the queen rights pheremone....If you replace newly spun wet and drawn comb back onto a hive after extraction you cause a cluser of bees to move up into the supers to clean up the honey and repair the comb...
    This is not what happened. Evidently, you did not read what I wrote correctly. The hives received FULL supers of honey, not empty, extracted frames. I have occasionally run triple deep brood boxes which did not result in a similar issue, so I'm pretty sure that adding a super full of honey didn't cause it either. That [problem] hive got one full super, the rest got TWO full supers and did not show the same issue.

    The queenright cluster made its way up the right side of the hive, through the deeps and into the super. I suspect that there was a second cluster, that remained lower down, on the other side. My hypothesis is that the extreme cold and the tightness of the clusters affected the pheromone levels, not the simple expedience of giving them an extra super of honey.
    If you want to be successful, study successful people and do what they do.
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