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Queen Dead On Arrival

1306 Views 7 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  Hops Brewster
New Beekeeper here! Our queen and all of her attendants were dead on arrival of our package bees. Here's the story:

We are Floridians who just got our first package of bees from Mountain Sweet Honey Company (beginning to regret this choice). Hive was prepped: baseboard, deep brood box with frames spritzed with sugar water, sugar water feed ready to go, entrance reducer in place. Shipping label made May 6, package didn't arrive until May 14. Package arrived in the morning and we removed the metal can of syrup to find that it had only a handful of tiny little holes punctured, hardly enough to feed 10,000 bees during transit. Then we remove the queen cage to find that she, along with her attendants (about 5) were all dead. Dead on arrival, with candy perfectly intact, none of it chewed away. It's our first time handling bees and things aren't going so well in this moment. We set the cage aside and dump the bees into the hive as normal. We place the cage with the dead queen and attendant between the center frames, hoping that if she is still giving off a little pheromone that it will continue to unite the bees. Called Mountain Sweet Honey and reached a customer service rep that seemed to be making up answers on the spot to our questions, but told us that there could be another queen that got dumped into the package that has superseded the queen that was in the cage with her attendants. Refused to ship another queen to us. She asserted that the workers may have stung their caged queen to death, but after some research I'm discovering that it is indeed possible that a second queen was in the package, was accepted by the workers, and the workers suffocated the caged queen/attendants. The colony was flying all around and above the hive at first after being dumped into the hive, but the worker bees were still extremely docile. We put the lids on, left the package at the front of the hive and left them alone with their sugar water feeder (which they have been draining quickly!), they have integrated extremely well. No irritation, no agitation and they were already getting to work on the comb. No loud buzzing from inside the hive either, and they were acting as a united colony (at least to my untrained eye). This leads me to believe that there is another queen that was in the package. I have a contact 45 minutes away that has mated queens immediately available, but if there is another queen, the introduction of a new queen will be pointless as she will be smothered as well. We are going to inspect in 2-3 days and look for a queen as well as any eggs.

Any advice? Have you been in this situation before? I'm guessing that if we find eggs, we will be able to tell if they are drones laid by workers (which would indicate queenlessness) or fertilized eggs being laid by a queen (drones=egg stuck on side of cell vs fertilized=egg in the center of the cell).
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It is not unheard of to have a package with 2 queens and your observations seem to confirm that. It is too soon for laying workers, so if you see eggs, I bet you have a queen and are on your way.
Welcome to the forum and beekeeping. It is helpful to put your location in your profile. So many issues and solutions depend on where you are located. Not this one though! J
How many dead bees were on the bottom of the package when you received it? If there were not many the package probably survived transit ok. I think a can of syrup can last a package about a week if the conditions are right. I suspect the bees were hungry, but now that they have food they may recover.

It sounds like you may have a second queen that was in the package. I have gotten the impression that a some small percentage of packages end up with dead queens when they show up, and the seller should have replaced the queen. The major suppliers usually send extra queens with large loads (hundreds) of packages to replace ones lost in transit. I have also gotten the impression that some small percent of packages show up with 2 queens (one loose, one caged)
There is no guarantee that livestock shipped through the mail will arrive alive. It's the nature of the beast. And even though suppliers can't make that guarantee, some will cover lost stock as a gesture of faith, but some won't. Therefore, I'm not surprised that they don't want to replace the queen, and their answer does make sense. so I would look for eggs.
The quart can of syrup with 3 pin holes is plenty to feed a 3lb package of bees for a week or more. The holes must be that small to prevent the syrup from running out all over the bees during transit. Think of it as survival rations, not a holiday feast. Packages I bought 2 years ago were made 2 weeks before I received them, and still had syrup in the cans, and only a few dead bees.
I have only purchased packages once and Queens once, so this is only an observation and I have no idea if it matters.
The packages had no attendants with the Queens and the Queens only, had attendants.
In both instances I had 100% success. In both instances I opted to pay the extra money for overnight shipping and I went to the UPS terminal so the bees wouldn't have to ride around on the truck all day as we are the last stop on the route.
"Shipping label created," does not mean shipping today of even tomorrow. The tracking info should tell you when the package entered the shipper's system, thereby giving a better indication as to length of time the package was in transit.
I agree with everyone that you may have a Queen, I hope so. If you know someone that would share a frame with eggs, you could cut down the waiting time by introducing the eggs into your package. If they don't start making Q-cells you probably have a Queen. Even if they do start making Q-cell I would still look for other eggs in the hive because package bees sometimes attempt to super cede the Queen.
Good luck.

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Never seen it myself, but I know folks who have. Package arrives with queen dead in the cage, hive it anyways, look in 4 days later and see frames full of eggs. Look carefully and you find a queen walking on the frames. Folks shook a queen into the package when making it up, it does happen once in a while.
Thank you for the warm welcome, @Fivej! :)

Thank you all for the advice and suggestions! I was hoping that there would be a queen loose in the package but that didn't seem to be the case. We checked the hive on 5/17 and found very little comb (only a few cells built over 10 frames) and no sign of a queen. The next morning (5/18) we obtained a mated queen and a full frame of capped brood (with a few cells of larvae--so cool to see in person for the first time!) from a local beekeeper. Installed the frame of brood and accompanying nurse bees in the hive and the queen was received very positively with much fanfare from the workers! So amazing to see them so excited and immediately begin dancing and feeding her. I dug out a very little bit of the candy to get the process started but still give them time to get to know her before releasing her.

This morning (5/19) the hive is fully in action--syrup feeder is quickly being depleted and many workers bringing back full sacs of pollen! I hadn't seen a single bee bring back pollen before we installed the new queen. During the few days while we were waiting to see if there had been a queen in the package, many bees were standing listlessly on the exterior of the hive, buzzing around and not really coming or going with purpose. Now we see foragers leave with intention and when bees return they head right inside, rather than hanging around. The little ladies are getting to work!
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Glad you got it fixed. A happy hive is a joy to watch!
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