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Hi all!

I am a new, Maryland bee keeper.
I have 1 hive in a shady/more wooded area in Baltimore...

I went from a 5-8K nuc in early August to a now, 30,000+ strong (and this last week feisty!) colony...

Not to be an alarmist- as I recognize that the queen needn't be seen every inspection-- however I have a bad feeling she was somehow killed--

I hadn't seen the queen the last couple weeks (since around September 25)...I wasn't horribly concerned, but I typically do spot her every time. A couple days later, I saw eggs (around September 28th)...so again, that was fine.
I went away for a few days- so beside someone filling in to feed them, I hadn't had a chance to fully-inspect them until yesterday-- I did notice, however, that the hive has been increasingly active since that September 28th inspection. Even (whether me or ba-bee-sitter) in going during more "down times," they get pretty feisty and I've gotten stung a few times, where again though standard; it just seemed like, overall, unusual activity.

Here are some notes on why I, somewhat undereducated, might think the queen is no-longer:

* As of yesterday, there is capped drone (shouldn't this only occur in the spring/summer?) Could this be a laying worker? (most of the capped drone is within the drone comb, but some is within worker comb) :: photo of the drone comb here-- http://www.flickr.com/photos/ashleynorth/5071851437/
* again, I've not been able to spot her at all for a couple weeks
* when inspected it yesterday, I was holding the frames and my helper-friend was taking off the burr comb from around the base of the frames-- he'd already scraped this off- but once he did, it looked like a larger, white bee and perhaps a now collapsed [maybe queen?] cell. Really, this might be an over-exaggeration-- I feel like one of us would have certainly seen the queen cell prior to knocking it off, but I don't want to ignore any possibilities

I know that them being more defensive could be because of robbing-- I installed inverted feeders and added 2 medium boxes to cover them (I had a top feeder)- when the hive is open, it seems more are coming to rob.

I recognize I might not be seeing eggs as the queen could be slowing, considering it's mid-October-- and because of the massive amounts of honey stores, she could be laying drones because there already existed drone comb-- however, the above, collectively, seems all odd to me.

sorry for the novel- as I am new, I didn't want to leave out details!
Please advise!!

thanks very much-
ashley
 

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look for multiple eggs per cell - if so this is a sign of laying worker

if it is not laying worker give them a couple of weeks and see all eggs are drones if so you will have to start over next year. I think it is too late to requeen.

I receommend having more than one hive - b/c you could combine this weak hive with another then split in spring and not have any extra cost(s).

This time of year you want your hive as strong as possible & queenright. If you requeen now you are looking at another 21 days before you have a bee and in your region it will most likely be too late. hope this helps.
 
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