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Beginner beek has one yr old hive that was very healthy, densely populated in spring, then, I suspect, swarmed. Can't find the queen or eggs. Maybe I am overlooking them.

Within the two lower deeps there are only 2-3 frames with a solid, healthy looking area of contiguous brood (dark-capped cells are brood?) These frames have white/yellow capped cells in the corners, sides and tops. But some of the other deep frames have minimal material in the cells. About 1/3 of the deep frames have spotty patches of dark-capped cells. A few deep frames have no significant activity.

The medium-depth super is bustling with activity, seems to be much honey being made and awaiting capping. Quite a bit of capped honey on 3-4 frames.

I looked for eggs in most of the lower two deep frames and saw none. There is a white substance deposited in some cells at the perimeter of what I believe to be capped brood. Some of the dark-capped cells seem only half full.

There is vigorous return of bees with pollen on their legs. But the whole hive seems only at or below the activity of two new hives installed about June 1. The new hives are producing new comb and honey much faster than the hive described above.

I have been looking every 1-2 weeks the past two months and saw only two of what appeared may be queen cells.

Since I am new I may be overlooking the queen. I have no difficulty introducing a new queen (soon as I learn how), but what is the downside, if there is, in fact still a queen in there?

THanks for any guidance.
-Lee in Black Hills
 

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The white, yellow capped cells across the top and sides of the brood frames are honey and pollen supplies. the dark capped cells are as you surmised brood and the fact that they are capped says that you had a queen at somewhere between 10 and 20 days ago.
A picture would be helpful.
Are you sure the white substance you see in the cells on the edge of the brood area is not eggs or uncapped larva?
If there is a queen there and you introduce another one will kill the other.
You could try moving a frame of eggs from one of the two new hives into what you think is the failed hive and place it next to the brood area. If there is no queen the beeswill try to raise a new queen from the introduced eggs. If there is a queen they will just raise the extra eggs as worker brood. Check the frame after a week to see if they create a swarm/suprecedure cell/s.
 

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The worst downside I can think of, if there is a resident queen (even a poor performing one), or even laying workers, is that the queen you attempt to introduce will be killed. If she is, you will still be in the same situation you were in before you attempted to introduce a new queen.
 

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Honey can be capped dark or light, depending on age.

This was early spring, expanding the broodnest.
Lower right is capped worker brood and a couple of uncapped larvae.
Upper left is honey, probably left from last year. Note variation in the color of the cappings.
Just below the honey top right and center is pollen.

 

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You loose one. Not necassarily the new one. So, the down side is that maybe you've thrown away the cost of a new queen. The up side is that maybe you have a new queen. A new queen means more eggs being layed, better production, this time of yaer, perhaps a queen that makes it through the winter.

So what have you lost? $15.00 or$20.00 bucks? But look at what you've learned for that investment.
 

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id be checkin to see if you see eggs. she slows down when necter slows
down. if you dont see no eggs nowhere an larvy looks older than 5 days
then id put that queen caged up in that hive an see how they act toward her
before you release her or grab a frame of eggs from one of your other hives
an let em draw out a queen cell. with bee its teaches patience an how to
make do with what you got.

20.00s add up quick.
 
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