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Discussion Starter #1
I'm in Virginia. Local folks have only started to see the drones in the last week, although one fellow claimed they were out two weeks ago. My drones only started flying last Thursday.

15 days ago, I did my first inspection of what I call my strong hive (the other one, of my two hives, is my weak hive...) I have been in the boxes several times, but did not break the frames in the bottom deep (I am running two deeps) until this inspection.

I went through the entire bottom deep, one frame at a time. Tons of capped brood, but they had not done anything in the top deep (it had two frames of capped honey (which I figured was from the sugar syrup that I fed them last Fall - I had not fed them again since last October.) I looked for the queen, but could not find her - the frame with the eggs on it (where I figured she might be working) was literally 2 bee's deep with bees. I thought she was probably under all of that mess. Plus, when I find eggs, I'm happy.

I looked for queen cells and saw none. The bees had not moved into the upper deep, like everyone said they would, so I decided this was due to them coming into their second year with only moderate stores and decided they must not be in swarm mode.

Well, today, I did another inspection. I knew I could be cutting it close (if they decided to start building a queen the day after I did my inspection), but time and work forced my hand.

Well, must to my dismay (and irritation), I did find A queen today, but it wasn't my queen (unless she figured out how to wash the green spec from her abdomen...) Right before I found this new witch, I discovered what I had thought was the start of a queen cell. It looked like a volcano hanging off of the bottom of the frame, but I could not see anything in it - it was too dark in there to see if it was empty or with egg. After I found the new queen, I started to wonder if the hive had already swarmed.

I must say, that I have a ton of bees. I have also not laid eyes on the queen in this hive since last August (but, there are always eggs and larvae). I am frustrated that I lost my first queen (she was gentle and from a beekeeper that doesn't treat (cept for power sugar). I had hoped to get her to live into year three when I would try to grow a bunch of queens off of her. I can only hope her daughter is her equal or better.

On the off chance that this new queen has actually been in this hive since last Fall (and the queen cell that I found was not hers but a cell of a new queen), I plan to check again this Wednesday or Thursday to see if they have capped the cell. If so, I will try to do a split.

I guess I am wondering how you can tell a cell that a queen has emerged from FROM a cell that the bees are building a new queen in.

If my bees did swarm in the past few weeks, they did so with an upper deep that was 75% full of EMPTY, drawn comb. I am new to this (first Spring), but I am frustrated as I was trying to do all of the right things to prevent this from happening.

At any rate, onward.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
I'm thinking my exasperated rant about losing my daggone original queen sort of hid my question (which I apologize for.)

How can you tell the difference between a queen cell that the bees are building and a queen cell that a queen has recently emerged from? I have a queen cell that reminds me of a volcano - I was unable to see into it (very dark in there) to see if I could see larvae or egg.
 

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Others may correct me.

If it is dark in color this would be a sign it was already used - it becomes dark from use.

I hear the cap is usually on it - the bees put it back - but I do not find this all the time (last year gave me some swarm experience).
If there are other queen cells you will eventually see a whoel in their side if the queen is new (she will kill the others).
Otherwise if they did swarm there is nothing to do. Watch the cell and see if they tear it down or it gets an egg. If they haven't swarmed but are planning to it will get an egg - unless you prevent the swarm.

Just some thoughts
 

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If it's a fully formed queen cell with no cap you should easily see the lavae and royal jelly in it because by the time it gets to that size it's gone way past the egg stage. if you dont see lots of white from the jelly and lavae and it's just dark then it's already hatched.
I find the colour of the cell has more to do with the colour of the comb that the cell is on. New yellow comb generally yellow cell, old dark comb- dark cell
Cheers
kiwi
 

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jaj:
Title question: No. They did not swarm. A single Q cell is almost invariably an indication of supersedure. A little reckless perhaps, but colonies will sometimes put all their egg in one basket and go into SS with a single Q cell. (Reckless because should that one-shot fail and they terminate the existing Q queen before success is known, they are out of business.) But some gamble against the odds.

At this point on your schedule, colonies should have filled both deeps, completed swarm preps, and be ready to issue a swarm. Your strong colony is behind schedule. They seem to know where they are on the vegetation development schedule and often blame Momma when it's not her fault. A number of problems can contribute to being behind schedule i.e. small overwintered cluster, poor forage support, socked in by weather, parasites, disease, etc. Although it's not a matter of a failing Q, they elect to SS in the early build up period.

A story to bore you on the subject:
A two-frame survivor had a single SS cell jutting down into the bottom board entry space in early March - before drone rearing even starts. Would have given 10 to 1 odds they would be a dead-out in another month, but took no corrective action. It's sometimes informative when you're learning to let things happen to improve the data base for future actions. Had seen a couple drones in my rounds but was sure that they were not seen in this outyard. Surprise!! They pulled it off without any help and made a super of surplus. Learned later that some colonies will support a few drones over winter.

Re the main question of interpretation of a partial Q cell:
Lacking a picture of details, will take a stab at it based on your description. A "volcano" appearance implies that the larval chamber was complete and the elongation of the cell had not, or just started. At that point of development, the cell has an egg/larva in it. It is populated with an egg before the enlarged chamber is necked down to the elongation diameter. With my vision needing extra light to see well, I don't even try to see what's in the chamber.

In the elongation/tear down phase, there a few general clues that might be applied. When the cell is lengthening, the rim will be fairly smooth and uniform. And often a worker will be upended in the cell providing the extra care accorded rearing the Q. In tear-down, they are not so neat. They are just using the wax for other purposes and that results in a somewhat ragged appearance. Tear-down of the elongation goes fairly quickly and the bulk wax of the larval chamber and supporting base that takes longer is normally what you see. There are a few short time slices when it would be difficult to make a judgement without knowing what's in the larval chamber.

My guess is that the colony has successfully superseded and is ready to head out on expansion. But it may be too late to make an exceptional production season. Expect them to fill the upper deep with honey.

Walt
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for everyone's replies. thanks for your explanation Walt. It definitely did NOT bore me.

Walt,

Let's say that they have superceded in early March. Your explanation makes me feel a bit better. But, on to more quandaries...

If the cell that I found is prep for a coming supercedure, then I am guessing that the cell should be capped by Thursday, Apr 15. I plan to check it then. If I find that it IS capped (it was not capped on Sunday), my current thoughts are to find the frame with the queen on it, another frame of capped brood, a frame of honey and some pollen and maybe a frame of drawn comb and drop them all in a NUC.

I have never 'shook' bees into a Nuc, but I might try that too, if I am feeling adventuresome.

I have only been in 3 hives over the past month. Two of them are mine and one is a cousin's. No hive has solid brood like this hive. I mean SOLID. I do not know what 'spotty' brood is, but I can tell you that this queen does not miss a single cell (I am not kidding here.) Both of the other hives have about 95% fill rate. But not this gal. So, I'd like to keep her (she may be a grumpy little thing, but I have not had her long enough to know.)

So, I figure I might as well make the best out of a bad situation (plus, as you say, it's a learning experience.)

If you have thoughts or critiques, fire them at me.
 

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Reread your post after confirming mine above. I believe your description of a solid brood pattern. Have seen it many times - wall to wall brood with no empty cells. A SS Q is a laying machine - playing catch up. She can lay in excess of 3K eggs a day. Without spotted pollen in cells, it's solid brood.

Why the colony should elect to SS her is a mystery, but we don't know what criteria they use for the judgement. Back to back SSs do occur, but it's not obvious to us why.
Walt
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Well, I broke them open again today to check on the queen cup. I have never pulled every frame twice in a 5 day period before!

On the good side, this new queen is apparently kicking out fairly gentle bees. They crawled all over me and only one became a bit grumpy, but soon lost interest and went back to her duties.

I found the original queen cell and think that it is probably more accurately defined as a 'queen cup', now that I have had time to do more research. I also located 2 more of them (all on different frames). I was able to look into two of them and they were bone dry.

I am still not sure if this queen arrived this Spring or last Fall, but I am thinking that these cups are 'just in case' cups and maybe not swarm prep (the one that I found on Sunday is still the exact same size.)
 
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