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Balling the queen

Hello lovely people.

I was installing a new queen last night to save a hive that has been queenless since February 7. I had accidentally killed the queen, hoped they would requeen themselves, but when opening the hive 10 days later found zero queen cells, Whether sealed or open, just 4-5 empty queen cups.

I eventually found a Carniolan queen available from Hawaii. As of yesterday they had neither queen cells nor open brood nor eggs, just a bit of sealed brood left.

As per instructions, I transferred her from the shipping cage to a push in cage I had made. I was so proud of myself because the cage covered a good chunk of the frame, giving her a lot of space, her three shipped attendants, and a dozen sealed worker cells.

I checked on the frame this morning (to take a photo in case she hadn’t made it through the night) and to my horror, I found the push in cage FILLED with bees, and no queen in sight. I soon realized they had chewed their way through the wax under the wire.

After a bit of searching, I eventually found the queen under a cluster of bees balled up in a corner of the brood box. To my amazement, she was still alive, although the bright yellow marking dot on her back was half gone.

The question was, what to do? I put her back in the mailing cage and blocked it off with candy,then laid the cage on the bottom hoping that a standard candy release could still be done.A handful of bees soon swarmed the cage walking around on the mesh cloth.

What I’m wondering is — is she injured? Will she recover of any injuries incurred if so? Will her laying abilities be impaired? Is there anything else I can or should to do in this situation?

Many thanks in advance as always!!!


Hi Olivier, I’m not sure if the queen will survive after balling. If you have another hive, I would add a frame of brood that contains worker eggs or very young worker larvae. Repeat that every 7-10 days. Don’t spend any more money on queens. Your experience is one of the negatives of buying in new queens. Your bees can make a beautiful new queen for you. It just takes time. Some people give up on the idea after inserting just one frame of brood. Sometimes it takes more than one frame. Remember to add them consecutively.


Jeff !

I’m still a novice in this bee world stuff ! Guess I didn’t learn a lot of stuff as a kid. Just want is Balling ? It sounds bad n bummer ! Thankz a lot before your answer !! I appreciated you all on this Forum !

Ta Ta,


Hi Jerry, balling is like that thing in ice hockey when the whole opposing team pile on top of a player, or like a scrum in rugby. Twenty to fifty worker bees pile on top of the queen (or other target, such as a wasp). They then beat their wings very rapidly to generate body heat, and cook the target at the center of their pile of bees. Pretty common bee behavior.

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Wow ! That’s not Good for that poor little Queen ! Ive seen that in video of bee against Wasps but didn’t know what it is called … They were sure not happy with her Magesty !

Thanks for the quick note. Just one more piece in the bee puzzle !

Cheers :coffee:

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Hi Olivia, I have experienced something very similar. The answer is to get her back into the mailing cage which you have done, the balling occurs usually when the colony either has not had long enough as a queenless hive or too long. By leaving her in the mailing cage for 2 days should ensure that she is accepted. But seeing that she no longer has her attendants you should inspect after 24 hours and place a drop of sugar solution on her cage just in case. Either release her manually and watch how the bees interact with her, or leave her to emerge from the cage and then inspect a couple of days later to check for her and/or eggs. I wish you the best of luck.


About the only way to break it up is to smoke them heavily until they scatter and let go. Also keep moving the balled queen to a different location as you get more bees off. If you get too rambunctious trying to get the bees off you may cause them to sting her when they hadn’t planned on it before… so be gentle. Once you have all the bees off, put her in a cage. Then try to figure out the cause. When introducing a caged queen (one that was not laying a few minutes ago) you should always do some kind of slow release. Typically a “candy cage” release. She may or may not be injured. Some of the way’s they injure queens is not obvious, such as pulling off the tarsal glands on her feet… I would go ahead and introduce here and after she is loose check. A frame of open brood is always a good plan in case they want to replace her and they are not getting viable eggs from her to do so…


Thank you for the guidance. Temperature question: its 51 degrees today, is it too cold to do an inspection? Is there a minimum temperature below which the brood would be chilled?
Many thanks!

That is a judgment call, taking into account how vital the inspection is, and what you are going to do about your findings. If you are not going to change anything, don’t inspect.

If you have to do an inspection, just be as quick as possible. If it is 51F and windy, I would suggest waiting, as the wind will chill the hive much faster.

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you are experience and im interested, how much hive do you have at the time ?

last when died your bees ?

how much honey are you making per season ?

please answer me ) probably it isn’t confident

We have 3 hives at the moment. In the last 30 years, the most hives I have kept at once is 5, I think. But I work more than full time in a completely different job, so I really don’t have time for more than 3 or 4 hives.

We lost a hive last year to Argentine ants, which are a real problem in coastal California. I have never lost all of my hives at once. I monitor regularly for varroa and treat with Oxalic Acid or Formic Acid if and when necessary. This helps prevent losses overwinter. I think you call varroa “ticks”, but they are actually mites.

I have answered this already in other posts. In the UK, the most honey I got was about 80lb per hive per year (per spring + summer). In California, I haven’t seen more than 40lb, and last year we didn’t harvest any honey at all, as the season was so dry and we had a long nectar dearth. In fact, I fed each hive probably about 20lb sugar (in syrup form) over this winter to keep them going.

Is anyone here who has big farm of hives ?

So bees died is usual case ? Every beekeeper it is good or bad still died bees ? That will happen any time ?

Hi there,

Here in Pennsylvania USA and in many places in the world it’s become typical for bee colonies to die. I only had one colony last year, and they died because of varroa mites. I learned a lot, and I’m going to try again with two new colonies this year.

I couldn’t tell from your profile - do you have any bees yet?