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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I have only had bees for 3 years now, just went through my 2nd winter. I have a bunch to learn yet and this is one where I am definitely puzzled. I had this hive over winter and thought they were doing fine until I did my first inspection about 6 weeks ago. At that time I noticed there was a very erratic brood pattern and figured the queen was just not laying at full speed. Checked a couple of weeks later and noticed that the brood pattern was very erratic and that the cappings over the brood cells was domed, but they were worker sized cells. Through research thought that maybe I had a lost my queen and that I had a laying worker. Bee activity coming in and out of the hive stayed pretty decent. Then I checked last week and there was still a good number of worker bees in the hive. Thought I would have lost a lot of bees by then. I ordered a couple of packages last week and decided that I would move this hive and let the workers fly back to the new hive that I sat in its place. Here are the photos of the hive today when I hauled it a couple of 100 yards away from its original location. It was a bright sunny afternoon so I was able to see things pretty clearly. Here is what I found. Majority of worker bees, very spotty brood pattern, some bees looked like they died after developing in the cell ( capping gone, but fully formed dead bee in cell.) No foul smell. No gooey slimy cells. "Match sticked" a couple of dead pupa and they were not ropey. Never saw a queen, but could have over looked her.

I would love to hear from the experienced keepers what they think happened. THANK YOU

First picture - highly developed larva, pinkish brown heads in uncapped cells.
2nd picture - domed cappings on cells
3rd picture - spotty brood pattern
4th picture - dead but fully developed bees in cells
5th picture - larva removed from a cell
 

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pretty sure you have laying workers, I think I can see multiple eggs in a cell at the last image. shake them all out and start fresh as there are not that many bees to add a queen.
 

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Good information and good pictures HuskerBee.

As you have correctly surmised, the hive has laying workers.

There are 2 reasons for a hive having drone brood in worker cells, one is a queen that has failed and can now only lay drone eggs, the other is a queenless hive where workers have started laying and again can only lay drone eggs.

In your case we know it is laying workers, because in pic 5 we can see the eggs. If they had been laid by a queen, even a drone laying queen, there would be one egg per cell and they would be placed in the middle of the cell bottom. But in that pic we see multiple eggs per cell (laying workers do not understand only laying one egg per cell), and also the eggs are not in the middle, but to one side, or on the cell wall. Which is the other thing laying workers do.

Hives with laying workers do not just have one laying worker, they usually have many. I suspect this hive is too far gone to be worth trying to save as that will waste too many resources. You are better to shake the bees out on the grass and remove the hive, so the bees can beg their way into other hives if possible. A week or two later the brood combs with dead drone brood can be added to a suitable hive to allow the bees to clean and re use the combs.
 

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I couldn’t make out multiple eggs ( not doubting it..just my computer) but it did seem the eggs were not centered...and, there is a lot of drone brood in what appears to be worker brood comb. So yes, failing or failed queen along with laying workers. But, what about what appears to be chewed down / exposed pupa? I would be thinking maybe a mite problem as well.
 

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Exposed, dying, and chewed pupae are common in laying worker hives.
 

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Food for thought. When you shake this colony out. The bees will look for a new home. They will be bringing there varroa with them. You might want to treat your colonies if supers are not on. Or monitor mites often as this could effect your other hives and neighboring beekeepers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for the input. I was thinking laying workers as well (from the info I had gathered), but the fact that the worker population seemed to be holding steady was throwing me. I thought that I would see a noticeable decline in worker bees at a more rapid pace. I will shake these bees out in front of a couple of other hives today.

We are treatment free on our hives. That is the approach we decided to take from day one.
 

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image 4 had perforated cappings
 
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