Hive is Creating and Destroying Queen Cells--But Why?
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  1. #1
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    Default Hive is Creating and Destroying Queen Cells--But Why?

    Hey all,

    New here but creeped the forums for a long time, however I finally ran into something I couldn't wrap my head around.

    I have a hive that has created 3 queen cells so far (one after the other). The first and second cells the bees capped and started to raise a larvae in, but then the bees destroyed the cell and removed the larvae before the queen could hatch. They have now started a third queen cell. Weird?

    Anyone know why they might do this? Seems like odd behaviour. The hive is queen right. Fresh eggs and they aren't drones. My only comment would be that the queen isn't perhaps as prolific as she could be compared to my other hives, but she is most definitely functional and lays a good pattern.

    One other thing that was bizarre: the brood cells are bumpy, similar to a drone cell, but the bees within are workers. At first I thought I had two entire frames of drones, but these cells just turned out to be weird, bumpy worker cells. Again, this is something I've never seen.

    I'm not really worried about this as this queen has been replaced and split off into a nuc now because of these oddities. I'm more so wondering if anyone has ever seen these things and what they might mean.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Hive is Creating and Destroying Queen Cells--But Why?

    I know you are swearing the hive is queenright with worker brood, but you have accurately described two of the three things I look for in a laying worker hive. My guess is that your queen has gone drone layer. The queen cells are torn down because the bees know that it is a drone larva inside.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Hive is Creating and Destroying Queen Cells--But Why?

    Okay, thanks for the input. Just to clarify, the two things are 1) creation and destruction of queen cells and 2) bumpy brood?

    It seems weird that the bumpy brood have workers in them when I remove the capping. I would have sworn they were drone cells.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Hive is Creating and Destroying Queen Cells--But Why?

    Yes, the last one is of course multiple eggs on the sides of a cell. Drone laying queens are a little harder because the eggs are properly placed and single.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Hive is Creating and Destroying Queen Cells--But Why?

    Quote Originally Posted by Api YYC View Post
    It seems weird that the bumpy brood have workers in them when I remove the capping. I would have sworn they were drone cells.
    Got a pic?
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Hive is Creating and Destroying Queen Cells--But Why?

    Here is a scenario that may explain your situation.

    A queen who has or is becoming unfertile will continue to lay in worker sized cells but they will hatch as drone larvae. When capping the workers have to elevate the cappings to accommodate the larger drone larvae in the undersized worker cell. The result is bullet nosed cell caps.

    The workers sense the problem with the queen and are attempting to supercede. Such cell construction is often of exaggerated length before they abort and tear down. This scenario can continue to the point that laying workers will develop. The old queen can still be present!

    I was baffled by my experience with this as there seemed so many contradictions. The bullet nosed drone in worker cell should have been a dead giveaway but I did not twig to it as soon as I should have.
    Frank

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Hive is Creating and Destroying Queen Cells--But Why?

    Quote Originally Posted by Api YYC View Post
    Okay, thanks for the input. Just to clarify, the two things are 1) creation and destruction of queen cells and 2) bumpy brood?

    It seems weird that the bumpy brood have workers in them when I remove the capping. I would have sworn they were drone cells.
    Yes, I have seen both of those things. There are multiple variables involved so I will just give you a couple of things that could cause them. The creation and destruction of queen cells with a young laying queen present can happen because something is wrong with the queen and some of the workers detect it, but since her pheromone levels are high and she is laying other workers think there is not a problem. I have even watched in my observation hive as that was happening and when they did manage to raise a queen cell it was balled as soon as it emerged and the workers that supported the virgin were killed. It can also happen if they detect something is wrong with the developing queen or if they are thinking of swarming and the conditions change. People seem to think that all of the bees in a hive are always in agreement as what to do. They are not. They are all acting on instinct and sometimes those instincts donít sync.
    When I have watched them raise bumpy worker brood it has been on a new frame that wasnít used to raise brood previously or when the larvae are developing at different rates (eggs laid at different times). Either way, the capping was smoothed out on that frame and looked normal within one brood cycle.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Hive is Creating and Destroying Queen Cells--But Why?

    Here are some pictures of the bumpy capping.

    Happy to uncap and show that these are worker brood. As you can see I destroyed some of these cells before realizing this, hence some of the spotty pattern. Backfilling is also occurring.

    IMG_20190916_090802_1.jpg

    MVIMG_20190916_090642.jpg

    MVIMG_20190916_090752.jpg

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Hive is Creating and Destroying Queen Cells--But Why?

    Good pics Api YYC, although i had hoped a pic of an uncapped one would be shown.

    But in anycase, it looks pretty much like normal worker brood, just a patchy pattern. Unfortunately no eggs are shown, so not possible to diagnose based on that.

    There are several possible scenarios. What I think is most likely is the queen is scaling back on laying to reduce population going into winter, and the bees are trying to supersede her also, which could be related to her age or health. The hive could be infected with a virus called black queencell virus, which causes queen cells to die around capping time. Alternatively, I have sometimes seen the exact same thing in my hives, a supersedure cell is built, then later destroyed before hatching. I have never been able to tell if the bees changed their minds, or maybe the existing queen was able to get to it, just can't know.

    If they do not successfully supersede soon, could pay to requeen it if you can get a queen.

    BTW have you checked mite levels?
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Hive is Creating and Destroying Queen Cells--But Why?

    Quote Originally Posted by Api YYC View Post
    Here are some pictures of the bumpy capping.

    Happy to uncap and show that these are worker brood. As you can see I destroyed some of these cells before realizing this, hence some of the spotty pattern. Backfilling is also occurring. ]
    No bullet nose drone cells there. My scenario doesn't apply here.
    Frank

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Hive is Creating and Destroying Queen Cells--But Why?

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    Good pics Api YYC, although i had hoped a pic of an uncapped one would be shown.

    But in anycase, it looks pretty much like normal worker brood, just a patchy pattern. Unfortunately no eggs are shown, so not possible to diagnose based on that.

    BTW have you checked mite levels?
    It does seem raised higher than typical brood though, right? I'm used to seeing almost flat brood cells. I can post an uncapped pic on Sunday. Bad weather today, busy Saturday. There are some eggs visible on I think the 2nd or 3rd pic, but a bit tough to see. I have confirmed they are present. Single egg, laid in the center. Not multiple or stuck against the side. Hive is currently receiving Apivar treatment, single strip, because of mite test results.

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    If they do not successfully supersede soon, could pay to requeen it if you can get a queen.
    I'll likely merge these into my existing strong hives. In this part of the world it's pretty hard to find queens this time of year, but I'm looking into it anyways.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Hive is Creating and Destroying Queen Cells--But Why?

    I agree that it looks like normal worker brood. That it is spotty makes it look bumpier than if it were a solid pattern. You have not posted your location so it is hard to know if this is a normal slowdown, mite pressure, or failing queen causing the poor pattern. I suspect mite pressure and vectored viruses in this scenario. It may turn around now that you are treating if you are in the south. If north of the Mason Dixon, it may be too little too late. Apivar is a six week treatment.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Hive is Creating and Destroying Queen Cells--But Why?

    Api, Can you put in your location, at times the place you are at may offer a different option or negate one. Advice for today in Ontario may be different than Florida. If you can my advice " requeen",
    GG

  15. #14
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    Default

    I'm in Alberta, and my name gives a pretty good indication of which city. I've contacted local breeders and some in BC. Alberta folks are out of queens, waiting to hear back from my contact in the Shuswaps. But this is a nuc and I'm not terribly concerned about overwintering it, was mainly curious to understand the behavior. The queen was removed from one of my double hives and that hive has been re-queened and is doing well. When I did this I was fully prepared to merge this nuc back in the case the queen did show signs of failure and I wasn't able to re-queen. Thanks very much for the good advice though.

    PS not sure if there's a way I can put my location so it shows up in my details. On my phone atm and I don't see the option.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Hive is Creating and Destroying Queen Cells--But Why?

    Quote Originally Posted by Api YYC View Post
    I'm in Alberta, and my name gives a pretty good indication of which city. I've contacted local breeders and some in BC. Alberta folks are out of queens, waiting to hear back from my contact in the Shuswaps.
    You are in Calgary for those who dont know airport codes, YYC = Calgary.

    I know Liz and Terry at Kettle Valley Queens in Grand Forks winter lots of queens in mating nucs, so they may have some available.

    In general, I would expect most to say no queens at this time of the year. Drones have been evicted and colonies should be in the tail end of winter prep now

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Hive is Creating and Destroying Queen Cells--But Why?

    Quote Originally Posted by grozzie2 View Post
    You are in Calgary for those who dont know airport codes, YYC = Calgary.
    Canadian airport codes. Hmmm. Missed that one entirely. I keep my plane at KOFP, but live closer to KXSA.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

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