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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Sorry guys for what is probably the 200th time a question has been asked about queen cells, but I didn't really see this covered. What I'm looking for is the size of a 7 day old queen larvae.

A little background:
I had a 2014 Russian nuc swarm on me about 3 weeks after I put them into an 8 frame deep. Since then, they have raised a new queen. I spotted her about 8 days ago and she looked like a virgin queen. Sort of triangular shaped abdomen that was slightly longer than a worker bee right beside her. I checked them again last night and was pleased to find some brood on about 4 frames. None of it was capped, but there were large larvae that filled the cells and then progressively smaller larvae and eggs. On the last frame, I found 3 queen cells and one queen cup. At least two of them had royal jelly and very small larvae in them. The thing that I wonder about is the size of the cell. Both of the cells with larvae in them look like they're about a half a day away from being capped. I didn't have a camera or my cell handy, but to give you an idea of what they look like, find a picture of a queen cell that has recently emerged and that's about what these cells look like. Fairly long with just enough of an opening to tilt the frame and look into them. I'm looking for advice on whether or not they are viable. I assumed the larvae would be bigger with the cells being so close to being capped. For those of you who have been raising queens, are queen cells that are about to be capped filled with a pretty large larvae? I'm hoping that they jumped the gun when the new queen started laying and immediately started trying to raise insurance in case she didn't start laying well. To be honest, the patterns she's laying are hit and miss. Some look ok, some are spotty. None are what I would call outstanding, but it's been my experience that new queens need a few days to get it going. I couldn't find her, but after I started seeing larvae, I wasn't nearly as concerned with finding her. After that last frame, I almost went back and did a thorough search for her, but decided that it was probably best to get out and leave them be for another week. My experience with Russians has been that they are quick to start queen cells and then tear them down if they decide they don't need them. Thoughts?
Thanks in advance..

GH
 

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Are you beginning the "7 day" count from egg-lay, or from the dissolution of the chorion (egg shell), when it becomes a larva?

7 days from egg-lay, it should look like a fat grub in a better-than-half built queen cell.

7 days from becoming a larva, it should like a beeswax peanut, just about to be capped.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks Kilocharlie...that's what I was looking for. Based on my notes the very earliest an egg could have been laid by this new queen was 8 or maybe 9 days ago. The queen cells I found were both nearly capped, but had tiny larvae and just a dab of royal jelly in them. I sort of suspect that they started making queen cells as soon as she started to lay and have since stopped feeding them because she has several frames of new brood growing. I could be wrong and it's mostly a gut feeling but my plan is to let it go for another week and inspect again.

GH
 

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With cells built tall, but small larva, it sounds like they are not just about to be capped, but built about 2 to 3 days ago. Just a guess.
 

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Queen cells with only "tiny" larva in them, may appear to you, to be nearly ready to be capped. However, they may still be several days away from the actual capping time. Queen larva do grow extremely quickly, but if they are truly, "tiny", it should still be a day or more from being sealed in by capping.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Ok..thanks guys. I "assumed" that they built the cell as the larvae grew, but it seems you are saying that they build the cell quickly and then wait till the larvae is ready before capping. This colony is too small to split, so I will check them again this weekend and decide what to do then. If I can pull it off, I may take the queen out with a frame of brood and then see if one of my boomers can spare another frame of brood and try them in nuc. On the other hand, I'm not sure I want to keep committing resources to a colony that appears to want swarm at every opportunity. Thanks!

GH
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Update: I checked the colony again this weekend and sure enough there was one very large queen cell capped on that last frame. I looked through the colony several times and never did find a queen. I also found no new eggs or larvae. The population was still on par with what it was before so I think they have not swarmed. I guess the new queen was defective or injured. There is still lots of pollen and nectar being stored, so I will just leave them alone for about 3 weeks and check again. Thanks for the input!

GH
 

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If you start at 0 when the egg is laid and no time has elapsed, on day 3 1/2 the egg will hatch and on day 8 (4 1/2 days after it hatched) it will get capped. On day 8 it fills the cell pretty well. Once it is capped it starts spinning it's cocoon. As soon as that is done it starts changing into a pupae. On day 14 or so the bees start removing the wax from the end of the cell. On day 16 (+- a day) the new queen emerges.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I'm scratching my head here.....I observed them from out front yesterday and saw quite a bit of pollen being brought in. Pollen doesn't always mean anything, if it's available they'll store it. But the more I watched, I noticed that literally every forager that returned was loaded down with fat baskets of yellow pollen. My curiosity got the better of me. I opened them up and went right to the frame that had the queen cell on it and it had been ripped open from the side. There were also two more cells above it and to the right. I pulled the outer frame that was being drawn and started into the brood area and was surprised to find the queen. Watched her lay in a couple of cells and then put them back. Checked the other frames and found two excellent frames of capped brood on both sides and one with new larvae in them. I have no idea what they're doing. I guess it's best to let them sort it out. I left the two cells and plan to check again in a week or so. I have a feeling that as soon as those virgins start piping, they're gonna get it. We'll see...
 

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I read that Russian bees will keep "just in case queen cells". They keep a few going and tear them down before they emerge. Maybe that is what's happening?
 

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I've read wear a triangular abdomen on a queen is a sign of being poorly mated maybe they are keeping queens on standby for the day she peters out ??? One of my hives is doing something similar I thought I may have killed the queen because I saw a few SS cells so I waited and when I looked I saw no eggs but a frame of capped brood and my old queen she seems to lay in spurts she will fill one or two frames out completely and then I won't see anything for awhile and they start building cells and then she seems to go again and they tear them down FWIW my queen has a slightly triangular shape to her as well
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks for the thoughts. I'm still not sure what's going on, but have decided that doing nothing may be about as effective as doing anything just to make me feel better about the whole thing. I will update again when I next inspect them.

GH
 

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Back when my Russians were more Russian than ferel they nearly always had a queen cell going. About the time it would hatch they'd tear it down and start another.
They haven't done that in the last few generations. I rekin their more ferel than Russian now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Went back into them today and found a hatched queen cell and no sign of the old queen. They have about a frame of ready to emerge brood and the rest of it is becoming backfilled with nectar. I hope they get it right this time. I'll check them again in a couple weeks. If they're still not queen right, I'll probably combine them with another big colony.....
 

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Just some guesses, Grasshopper - I think your first queen cell back in your original post did hatch and her sisters were tearing down her cell. The spotty brood pattern happens while combs are being rebuilt, when queens are still very young, and probably more often with Russians, especially early in the season or if a late cold snap happens. Any of these cases were probably no cause for alarm. I also would guess you had difficulty spotting any virgin queens - they are NOT easy to spot.

Your main sign to cue in on is the brood - if it is uncapped, a laying queen has been around recently. If there are eggs, she's been laying in the last 3 1/2 days.

Gotta watch those Russian colonies - once they get going, they build up about twice as fast as Italian colonies, and will swarm on you if you get complacent. I'd check Russians at least every 10 days. Good luck.
 
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