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I have been beekeeping for five years now and have two hives. I have had a recurring problem with my hives and it appears it has happened again this year and I'm not sure what I am doing wrong or need to be doing differently.

This year I bought packaged bees for both hives as neither made it through the winter. I installed the bees in mid April and would check the hives about every ten days to make sure the queens were producing. The hives were off to a great start with more brood and bees with each visit and I added a second deep as needed. Things kept moving along well and I would add an excluder and a super. I would continue to inspect the hive about every 10 days, going through the deeps and removing supercedure cells. At some point I notice the bee numbers level off and the amount of brood decreasing. At the next visit or two the hives had made no progress and there was very little brood. The brood I did have was spotty and there were a lot of drones in the hive. It seems the egg laying drones have taken over the hive. This has happened to me with one of my hives each of the last few years, while the other hive continues to produce just fine.

Why do I continue to have egg laying drones taking over a hive?

Once the egg laying drones take over, how do I fix this? Based on some reading, last week I took the hive apart, walked it about 50 yards away and removed all bees. I then put the hive back together and in its original place. Apparently, this will get rid of the egg laying drones, but now what?

Any help would be appreciated, this annual occurrence is getting old!
 

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Drones are boys they don't lay eggs. You either have a laying worker ( that will only produce drones except in very RARE occasions) or you have dud queen that ran out of sperm and went drone layer. It sounds like you have had dud queens if you are getting supercedure cells. when I get them I let them happen because they know the queen is failing long before you do.
 

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Why do I continue to have egg laying drones taking over a hive?

Any help would be appreciated, this annual occurrence is getting old!
Trust me, you don't have egg laying drones.

You have laying worker bees. Hives go into this mode as a last ditch effort to reproduce. The queen is dead, there's no resources to make a new one. The "supercedure" cells were likely emergency queen replacement cells. Perhaps you killed a queen during an inspection? It's easier than you think.

The workers start laying but can only lay drones. The hope is to put a some into the air and maybe mate with the queen from a healthy hive. The state you see the hive in may be as the last of the workers dies out and the drones are hatching.

Prevent this by maintaining a healthy hive.
 

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Drones don't lay egg's:lpf:
Sounds like you may have a queenless hive and laying workers taking over.:)
 

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going through the deeps and removing supercedure cells. ...
Packages typically replace their queens sometime through the spring season. When you remove their supersedure cells, you remove their ability to re-queen the hive. When queens start to age, the bees can sense this, and also produce supersedure cells. My thought would be to let the bees "do their thing" and replace the queen when they decide she should be replaced, and then see if you have a better performance.

As far as fixing the drone laying queen now, if you still have good worker eggs being laid in the second hive, you need find and pinch her, and then insert a frame of eggs from the good hive and let them build queen cells from those eggs. If they don't build queen cells with that batch of eggs, you will want to get another frame and do it again. I think you should still have time to get that queen raised, mated and laying before winter sets in.
 

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bee admiral,

welcome to beesource and don't let these guys pull your leg, we knew what you meant.

another approach is to add a frame of eggs from one of your strong hives. this will stop the laying workers and they can make a new queen from one of the eggs. if you have enough you can another frame of brood a week later, and a third frame two weeks later. this will bring that hive back up to strength and hopefully they will be successful at making a new queen in the process. see:

http://www.bushfarms.com/beespanacea.htm
 

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Like square peg said we all knew what you meant.
When bees build a supersedure cell there's a reason. I would never tear one down. Sometimes they will build one when I can't see the reason. If I can catch it before they kill the queen I can put her and a couple frames of brood in a nuc to see what happens. There's no need to take the cell and leave the queen. Once their mind is made up her chances of surviving are very low.
 

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your problem is you destroyed the "supercedure cells" and it sounds as though you kept "going through the deeps" and doing so every 10 days. in bee terms that equates to listening to someone say they are thirsty for weeks and then wondering why they died of thirst.
if you indeed have a laying worker then simply adding frames of brood may not solve the problem, the pheromones produced by brood will generally prevent a worker from laying. However, in many instances they will have no effect on an already laying worker, as the pheromones from the drone brood have become normal within the hive. since the drones are emerging. she has been at it for over 3 weeks.

The first thing to do is determine if there is a drone laying queen rather than a laying worker. a poorly bred queen will run out of sperm stores and only be able to lay unfertilized eggs. Which result in drones. It is possible that the queen was failing, and that is why the hive was trying to supersede her. Looking at the eggs in the cell can also be a clue, and a drone laying queen continues to lay in the center of the cell. You need to go through the hive frame by frame and determine that there is no queen present. if there is no queen then you will have to shake the hive out. This is not a sure fire solution because sometimes the laying worker is a regressed forager. But the procedure is to take the hive at least 100 yards away from it's present location. have a back up empty hive body sitting on a closed up bottom board set up 10 to 15 feet from the hive. One by one remove each frame from the hive, shake off every bee brush them off if need be. Then carry the empty frame over to the waiting empty hive and place it in. cover it with a towel continue until all the frames are in the new hive and all the bees are either in the air, or on the ground. Take the new hive to the location of the original hive. Take a frame of brood with eggs present and place it in the hive. in a few days there should be a queen cell. I would add a frame of brood each week for the following three weeks. and monitor the progress of the queen cells.
 

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> I would continue to inspect the hive about every 10 days, going through the deeps and removing supercedure cells.
> Why do I continue to have egg laying drones taking over a hive?

As other's have pointed out, the reason the bees build supersedure cells is to replace their failing queen. If you keep destroying their attempts to fix their problem (a failing queen) the obvious outcome will be that they will end up hopelessly queenless, which they did. There really is no other likely outcome. I never, ever, ever, destroy supersedure cells... I also never destroy swarm cells. If you have capped swarm cells, they probably swarmed yesterday and they are now queenless. If you have all uncapped swarm cells, they will probably swarm no matter what you do unless you split ruthlessly.

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfallacies.htm#queencellsbad
http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfallacies.htm#queencells

That's how you avoid causing the problem. As far as how to fix the problem, a frame of eggs and open brood every week for three weeks should set them right.

http://bushfarms.com/beeslayingworkers.htm
http://www.bushfarms.com/beespanacea.htm
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thank you everyone for the input, it is much appreciated! I should probably clarify one of my statements in the original post.....when I said I remove the supersedure cells, I was under the belief that I needed to remove these as they were all on the bottom of the frames, and thus I thought those were swarm cells. I don't recall ever having any supersedure cells mid-frame, which are queen cells correct?

Once the hive gets rolling in the spring, do I need to be inspecting the deeps? It seems that without fail, something happens shortly after one of my inspections where the hive goes from producing a lot of brood each week. I'm thinking that once I confirm the queen is producing in the spring and there are lots of bees in the hive that I shouldn't dig through the deeps thereafter.

Again, I appreciate everyone's input!
 

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A queen cell is a queen cell, no matter where it is. Their motivation for building queen cells is better assessed by the state and direction of the hive than by the location of the cells. I would try to determine what their intention is so that I can help them accomplish it. But either way I would not destroy the cells. If they are trying to swarm, I would split. Hints would be rapid growth and lots of bees. Typically they would also have a lot of cells when swarming. Also swarm cells are staggered in age. Supersedure or emergency cells are usually all the same age. Supersedures are not usually occurring in a strong hive that is rapidly building up. There are usually only a few supersedure cells or emergency cells.

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfallacies.htm#swarmcellsonbottom
 

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A lot of drones in the hive and brood falling off would signal to me that the hive probably swarmed. As said, leave the queen cells so they can get a new queen.

Are there any red flags to the excluder mentioned in this story? Seems dropoff in activity here is associated with the excluder/super placement.

Not sure why you'd want to put an excluder on.

Also, I know this is blasphemy to many beekeepers, but maybe you don't need to go in there every 10 days. Increases risk of queen damage. Just make sure they aren't outgrowing the hive, and put more supers on as necessary.

To me, going into the bottom brood boxes mid-summer is like performing invasive surgery. I try to stick to the honey supers and let them do their bee business.
 

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"As far as how to fix the problem, a frame of eggs and open brood every week for three weeks should set them right."

Even in Minnesota in late July?
 

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>Even in Minnesota in late July?

Some hives won't recover no matter what you do. What is there to lose? They won't accept a queen.
Would he maybe have success with a mated queen and push in laying cage (Laidlaw)? Of course most likely doesn't have any emerging worker brood to place it over. :/
 

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"I have been beekeeping for five years now and have two hives. I have had a recurring problem with my hives and it appears it has happened again this year and I'm not sure what I am doing wrong or need to be doing differently. ...
"Any help would be appreciated. This annual occurrence is getting old."

Orient your hives facing generally southeast; keep the entrance fairly small; protect them from the north and northwest; leave plenty of stores and check on a warm mid afternoon in very early spring to make sure they still have honey; don't use a screened bottom; stay out of the hives as much as you can; find a mentor who raises bees for the same purposes as you who is successful and do what they do; read traditional and modern works on bees; and use local, northern queens, y'all. I hope you have good success this coming year. “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense.” Winston Churchill.
 
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