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I posted this thread, here, because uncontrolled laying workers can be like an internal parasite of honey bee colonies.
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In the past forty-eight years, I've seen queenless colonies develop problems with laying workers, many more times than I wish to remember. I've also read extensively on the subject, trying to get the best grasp of the situation that I could.

Unfortunately I never thought up a simple and effective solution to laying worker problems, like Michael Bush's method of straightening them out - primarily by providing them a donated frame of open worker brood with some eggs to them, each week, for three or four weeks, then, once they begin to raise themselves a queen of their own, they're "cured", and back on track. Thank you, Michael Bush.


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Now that I've been raising queens/bees with the Cordovan Italian color trait, for quite some time, I've discovered something about laying workers that I might never have realized without raising so many Cordovan Italian queens and bees.

First, Cordovan Italian queen honey bees, that exhibit the Cordovan color trait, are virtually incapable of directly producing drones that are normal colored. All the unfertilized (haploid) eggs that they lay will never contain a gene for normal color, since they don't have one themselves, to contribute. So, now that I have many colonies headed by Cordovan Italian queens, it has become obvious that many drones, of normal color, which are produced in these colonies (not determined by the drones mere presence <because drones wander>, but from watching them emerge from their cells).

My hypothesis is that some of the normal colored workers in these colonies, having been fathered by a normal colored drone, their Cordovan mother had mated with, being developed as laying workers, laid some of their eggs into drone cells, where the normal policing of nurse bees, doesn't happen, and that drone eggs laid by laying workers, in drone cells, is raised as if they were laid by the queen. It seems plausible, this gives laying workers a more positive and genetically viable purpose to their existence. Increasing the distribution of diverse genetics in populations of honey bee colonies, everywhere.
 

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Interesting hypothesis...

As the MB solution requires decent mating weather and I invariably discover laying workers at times when queen mating is not going to happen, I've given up doing anything with them but a newspaper combine with a strong queen right colony.
 

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I've noticed drone eggs in several hives that were building cells for me within a week of going queenless. I've taken extra care to get them queenright quickly once I notice this. Last year I had a hive that had a miss on a requeening effort. I got a queen in the next time around but the hive was concurrently full of laying workers. For nearly two months there was as much drone brood in worker cells as worker brood. Finally, they got straightened out and the hive has had a great spring under the same queen. My conclusion is similar to yours....in at least some hives there are laying workers lurking in the shadows.
 

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I think Joseph's point, and I agree, is that since all hives have laying workers (a booming hive probably has about 50 or so)

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

and since drone eggs in drone cells are not policed, those laid in drone cells by laying workers will be raised. The cordovan being a recessive trait, and drones being haploid, you can tell when this happens in a queenright colony.
 

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I wondered about this a week or two ago when I found drone brood just above an excluder. The queen seemed big enough to not fit through the QE, but at the moment I just assumed she did squeezed through. Although I found it odd that once above the QE she didn't go to town in my honey supers and instead when back down to lay normally. If indeed a healthy queenright colony can maintain some laying workers, then that would answer the mystery.

Are there any references to healthy queenright colony housing a very small percentage of LWs?
 

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Are there any references to healthy queenright colony housing a very small percentage of LWs?

http://www.bushfarms.com/beeslayingworkers.htm#multiple

See page 9 of "The Wisdom of the Hive"

"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."

If you do the math, in a normal booming queenright hive of 100,000 bees that's 70 laying workers.
 
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