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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So trying to keep a long story short, I fell into bee keeping after doing a cut out for a family that was in serious need and could find no one to help. To date, I've worked with bees all of about two weeks. I've read a lot, I've watched a lot, and I've searched Google (and this site) but have found no answer to my current question.

The hive I cut out had recently swarmed and though I saw multiple queen cells (opened), I never did find a queen. I transferred the bees along with what comb I could use into a top-bar hive and waited. There were only five brood in the cut out. They all hatched the next day. So I've had these bees in the top bar and they seem mostly content and very docile. They've repaired/attached some comb, but not much. They've capped a little honey. But they've made a half dozen queen cups out of the old comb. There's no sign of a queen in their midst...no eggs...no brood...and by now I would expect to have seen something

I have a queen coming in tomorrow...what do I do with the queen cups I've seen? I've read some articles that say to destroy queen cells (note: they're talking about fully developed cells in an established hive), and some that say destroying queen cells is the worst thing to do (that it will incite the bees to abscond, but again that's in an established setting with a pre-existing queen). But this is not the same situation. Should I try to remove/destroy the queen cups before I set the new queen loose (after acclimating the hive to her)? Should I wait until they're more developed cells? Should I expect the new queen to destroy them, or do only virgins do that?

We're getting late in the year and there have been some signs that indicate we're going to have an early fall. If this hive is going to have a chance at surviving I don't want part of it swarming away, so I thought I'd try my luck here.

Thanks for your time!
 

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If the queen cups have no larvae in them, there is no need to destroy.

What is more likely though is that the hive contains a virgin, and going by the time frames you mention she should have mated and be about to start laying any day now. I'm basing this on the bees being quiet, plus the fact they have stayed despite there being no brood.

However it is also possible there is no virgin

When the queen arrives, when you open the hive to introduce it, first have a careful look in some comb, in what looks like the central part of the hive, have a careful look in the cells for eggs. They are tiny and hard to see, you may need glasses. If there are eggs, you now have a mated queen, you should not introduce the caged one.

If no eggs, put the queen cage where the bees can get to the cage & watch the reaction. If the bees rush over, start nasanov fanning & seem really pleased to see the queen, you can unblock the candy and place the cage so the bees will release her in a couple days. If the bees are biting the cage plus bending their abdomens around so the stinger is pointing straight at the cage, they are trying to kill the queen, this could mean there is a virgin in the hive. Put the cage in the hive but do not allow the bees access to the candy so they cannot release her. Have another look in 2 days. If the bees are now looking peaceful to the queen, unblock access to the candy and put the cage back so they can release her. But if the bees are still trying to ball the queen, there is very probably a virgin in the hive. In this case post back here with whatever is happening so people can talk you through what to do next.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks guys for your responses.

I have examined the comb pretty thoroughly hoping beyond hope to see signs of a queen. I have looked at terra bytes of pictures of queens and eggs and brood. I'm seriously dreaming of bees nights on end... it's nuts!

Some details that might bring greater clarity to the situation...I believe this hive swarmed on July 7th. There was a large swarm outside of the house that day and it remained on a tree there for several days before going on it's merry way (how I wish I'd been in town then!). Hot days followed, the bees moved into the house I'm assuming to fan, but this resulted in the problems that were a catalyst to my jumping in.

I did the cut out in two stages, the primary cut out was on 7/19. I removed eight feet of hive between sixteen inches of studs, including the five mature brood that hatched 7/20. I went back when the family said there was still a lot of activity(7/23), and discovered a cavity that contained another four feet of hive. There were several (8?) queen cells, most of which seemed to be old. All of them were open. The hive had clearly been there for years.

The bees were docile on both accounts, though I did use smoke before diving in both times. I searched for a queen continually, but found no other brood or eggs during the cut out.

Lastly, the queen cups that have been made appeared in the last four days.

Tomorrow I will look over the comb again and follow your advice OldTimer.

Thanks again!
 

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I would want the genetics of the feral bees... so I'd let them raise a queen, which, judging by the swarm cells you saw, they may already have done before you did the cutout. They probably have a virgin who will kill your domestic queen anyway...
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Michael,
I'm all for the feral genetics. These bees have survived multiple years in this climate and environment. So far as odds for survival, these feral bees have a better shot at making it through the winter than an out of place queen. That said, if there's a virgin queen in there she's in no hurry to get things rolling.

My new queen came in today (from Northern CA). When I first put her in, the bees didn't flock to her as I and a local beekeeper hoped. I checked on her several hours later and there was a small cluster of bees around her. Two were fanning, the rest seemed to be just sitting on the cage...no aggressive behavior...if they were biting the cage I couldn't tell. They weren't twisting around trying to sting into the cage. I checked again several hours after that and things were much the same. Most of the bees were still covering the comb, only a dozen or so were on the queen's cage acting the same as they were hours earlier.

Does there need to be a hole through the candy for the bees to get the idea that they can release/get to the queen?

It was raining most of the day today. I'm not sure how much that would affect their behavior/reaction to the new queen.
Checked over the comb again for any signs of brood and found none.

Thanks.
 

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The no aggressive behaviour is a good sign.

The bees should be able to find the candy on their own unless the hive is very weak, roughly how many combs are the bees covering?
 

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Eggs are very hard to see. I have been keeping bees for 2 years now and still cannot seem to identify the eggs. I have a friend coming over today to find eggs in one of my hives and show them to me. I hope there are some.

If there were eggs and the hive became queenless, the bees would make queen cells and eventually a new queen. If you have enough bees/brood a good queen cell is the perfect beginning for a new hive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I released the queen yesterday as they just weren't interested in the sugar candy end of the cage. The opposite end had a cork rather poorly fit into a hole and they were much more interested in that end. As they weren't displaying aggressive behavior I decided to pull the cork, and immediately the queen came out. She fell to the bottom board and a couple bees flew down with her, but did not ball or bite. Later yesterday I checked on her and she was crawling over the comb and workers, all of them surrounding her, but not really messing with her at all.

Today I checked on her again, same story, though I spotted at least one egg in a dry cell (most of the comb has nectar in it). I do have dry comb in there, but the bees are not working it.

Oldtimer, the bees cover roughly four combs +. They are actively capping honey, and the combs they are on are mostly filled with nectar (which I am feeding back to them from the cut out. I salvaged it knowing they would need fed... and what would be better than their own nectar from combs I couldn't use) Right now I have eight bars in there *I think, two completely empty, the rest with partial comb I saved from the cut out. Most of it was pretty dry after the cut out, but they have filled the four combs they've focused on. The queen has not made it over to the dry comb which is further in from the entrance.

Thanks for the input and feedback. I'm trying my best to learn what I can to get these guys through winter successfully and I know time is short. Should have new workers for my birthday though (end of the month) that'd be nice.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I released the queen yesterday as they just weren't interested in the sugar candy end of the cage. The opposite end had a cork rather poorly fit into a hole and they were much more interested in that end. As they weren't displaying aggressive behavior I decided to pull the cork, and immediately the queen came out. She fell to the bottom board and a couple bees flew down with her, but did not ball or bite. Later yesterday I checked on her and she was crawling over the comb and workers, all of them surrounding her, but not really messing with her at all.

Today I checked on her again, same story, though I spotted at least one egg in a dry cell (most of the comb has nectar in it). I do have dry comb in there, but the bees are not working it.

Oldtimer, the bees cover roughly four combs +. They are actively capping honey, and the combs they are on are mostly filled with nectar (which I am feeding back to them from the cut out. I salvaged it knowing they would need fed... and what would be better than their own nectar from combs I couldn't use) Right now I have eight bars in there *I think, two completely empty, the rest with partial comb I saved from the cut out. Most of it was pretty dry after the cut out, but they have filled the four combs they've focused on. The queen has not made it over to the dry comb which is further in from the entrance.

Thanks for the input and feedback. I'm trying my best to learn what I can to get these guys through winter successfully and I know time is short. Should have new workers for my birthday though (end of the month) that'd be nice.
 

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Sounds like you made the right choices and all going well. :)
 
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