I installed two packages on 5/1.
Removed empty queen cages on 5/7. Things seemed normal.
Inspected again on ~5/15, 2 weeks in.
Hive A looked good & normal, single eggs standing up in the cells, and some small larvae. Several frames built out, etc.
Hive B seemed to be getting a slower start, less comb and generally less action. I found cells that had 1, 2, and in some cases 3 eggs. The eggs were at the bottoms of the cells, so I crossed fingers and hoped it was a new queen figuring things out...
Inspected again yesterday (5/22, 3 weeks in), and my suspicion that hive B has a problem was confirmed (based on my limited knowledge). This time I found 5-8 eggs per cell, and a lot of capped drone larvae. It seems to me that I have one or more laying workers, and the hive is queenless.
The questions that I would like to get the wise old beekeepers to weigh in on:
1. Does my diagnosis of queenlessness & laying worker(s) seem right to you? Any other easy clues to confirm or disprove this?
2. Does this timing seem weird? Even if the queen (who I saw in the cage during install) was somehow killed or flew off on day 1 of being released from the cage, would workers be laying their own eggs (with capped drone larvae) within 3 weeks? It seems an awfully quick quick progression to me, but I dont know these things.
3. Can they be saved by ordering and installing a new queen ASAP potentially get them back to viability? If the laying workers are as established as it seems they are, would they likely kill a new queen?
4. Can they be saved by swapping a frame of uncapped brood from Hive A into hive B and letting them try to make their own new queen? Hive A seems healthy, but they're new and dont exactly have a lot of brood to spare. If its a low probability to work I'd rather not lose 25% of hive A's brood at this early stage.
5. Does it make sense to try to combine the two hives? Ive read about the newspaper method. Any danger in doing this and screwing up hive A, just for the gain of giving it some additional bees with laying workers and a bunch of drone brood?
I kept a single hive 3-4 years ago that swarmed and lost its new queen and collapsed with laying workers. That experience is what im remembering when I look at hive B, but that experience could also be confirming my bias.
Thanks for any thoughts or input or clarifying questions you may have.