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Chalk brood and supersedure cell question!


Hi hive mind. Thanks as always in advance for your assistance. It’s always great to know I can come here and hopefully gain some insight.
I had a nuc installed in Spring (Oct 2017). It appeared to struggle through last summer and never really grew in great numbers and I identified in Autumn a pretty bad chalk brood problem. They have survived the winter and there was a lot of chalk brood being got rid of by the bees that I would clear from the base board every few days. After seeking advice from my local bee club I was told the queen should be replaced. So 6 weeks ago I ordered a new queen and she’s actually arriving in 2 weeks. However in the last 2 or 3 weeks as we enter Summer I have noticed a lot less chalk brood and the bees seem to be pretty active. Are they self correcting? Not huge amount - but they are still hanging in there. And with my inspection this morning, I have seen a supersedure cell (actually 2 or 3). There appear to be lots of babies, still some chalk brood (but only maybe a handful each frame). The brood pattern is pretty unkempt. So - I am now wondering if the bees have done the job for me and replaced the old queen? Unfortunately I didn’t mark my queen and when I did my inspection I couldn’t find her (or a new one) for love nor money! I have put up a few pics to help. So! My question to you all:

  1. I’m determined to persevere with this colony and get them strong. Should I still find queen and kill her in time for my new queen arriving. How do i tell if I am destroying the actually newly minted queen from one of the supersedure cells? Does it matter?. (it kills me to think I would be doing that though!) . My first colony died mysteriously last winter, and so this is my sole surviving hive at present so I can’t even do a split and use the new queen being sent to me for that?
    I would really appreciate everyone’s thoughts on this.

At this stage I am thinking when my queen arrives I will find and destroy the queen in the hive. Wait for at least 24 hours then put the cage in the hive , and see how we go.

Thanks all Katie


HI Katie, I am really nervous about this colony for a number of reasons. It maybe just the photos but I am concerned that the colony may have AFB.
The reasons for this:

  • evidence of sunken capped brood
  • discolouration of the brood
  • patchy brood pattern
  • pin prick opening in some of the brood,
  • mysterious loss of previous hive.
    Have you done a match stick test in any of the cells? If it comes out brown and loopy then it is in trouble. You can send a sample to the NSW DPI for free for a definitive test.
    I hope it is not, but you need to be sure otherwise this hive will get robbed out and spread to other nearby hives infecting them. If it is AFB the the colony needs to be destroyed and the equipment burnt or irradiated
    Have you got someone that has experience looking for disease that can have a look at the hive with you?
    Hope this helps, NSW DPI have some great resources on identifying AFB.
    I hope it is just the photos and my suspicious mind.


Thanks Dave, I will do the matchstick test as well as request help from my local beeclub. I will also send sample fo NSW DPI. Thanks.



Hi Dave,

I have just come back from hive and did the match stick test. All seems good. No brown gooy stringy thing in any of the capped brood that I tested. I can send a sample away for a definitive test. Exactly what do I send do you know? Or can you advise




Try this -


hello there Dave,

I am not sure what your experience level is with AFB- mine is ZERO. However looking at the same photos I don’t see the things that are worrying you? I can’t really see sunken cappings- I see pin prick holes in some capping but that looks to me like bees about to emerge uncapping themselves or could be chalk brood related. I see larvae that look very healthy, fat and white to my eye. I see lots of bees and pollen/bee bread but very little honey. I think I can see one or two chalk brood cells. Whilst some of the brood looks patchy- those same frames look to be hatching out/emerging at the moment so that would be normal? Other than that everything looks ok to me?

@Mywebdots Cannot tell from the images- but the one queen cell I see does not look fully developed? It could just be a ‘play cup’ type cell? Did you look inside it to see if there was a larvae or royal jelly in it? If it’s quite empty there may be nothing to it. I can’t quite see eggs but see very small larvae and quite a lot of them - as well as quite a lot of capped brood- suggesting the population will increase quite a bit. I don’t see much honey stores though- perhaps you may want to feed the bees a bit of sugar syrup?

Concerning what to do with the new queen: if you can see good patches of eggs in the hive- and are 100% certain there is an active laying queen- then maybe you don’t want to ‘do her in’. In that case it may be possible to do a split and put the new queen in the split. I say maybe - because you will need to be able to spare enough bees for a good split. In your photos the numbers of bees is not massive- can I ask: did you shake the bees off those frames before looking at them? And: did you have brood all the way to the outside frames or was it mostly concentrated int he middle? If the outermost frames did not have brood- what did they look like?

For a split you’d want to take 3 frames with the bees on them- ideally two with brood and one with honey- but you’d want to be sure you didn’t take the queen. So you want to go through the hive and see if you can find her. If you found her on a frame you could place that at one end of the hive and quickly take 3 from the other end- or catch her and cage her while you make the split up. If you have a super- you could take out a few frames and shake the bees off of them into the split. If you don’t have a super- you’d need to make sure the frames you took had enough bees to cover all three frames. Then I’d add two frames of foundation to make up a 5 frame Nuc- and I think I would feed them some sugar syrup too.

You’d also want to move the split at least 4 KM’s away at least temporarily. And from what I understand I think you’d add the queen the next day? I am not sure on that as I havn’t done splits where I added my own shop bought queen.


I was about to reply and very much as you have Jack. The hive definitely has a laying queen noted by the larvae and capped brood. I agree it makes sense to do a split but the ‘new’ hive can be put into the same place and orientation as the existing hive and the existing hive can be moved next to it. Doing a split that way will boost the new split with some foragers going to it.
The logic in adding the new queen after making the split is that the bees in the queenless hive will have a couple of days without a queen and more readily accept her, so step1 is to have the new queen. 2 Make the split and position it in the original hives position. 3 put the original hive close by the old location and in the same orientation. 4 A couple of day later add the new queen who you have been giving honey and water to in the meantime. All is done, it is now up to the bees.

I think it would be a positive move to feed sugar syrup to both of the hives and that will boost the colonies.


Thank you both Peter and Jack. Feeling super positive and now sure of my next move. I will do exactly as you say and see how I go. Thanks for your input and very specific instructions.




The reason I said wait for the new queen to arrive is that sometimes they die in transit or simply don’t arrive. I didn’t see any issues with the pics you posted except for a low number of bee for this time of year. For that reason I suggested doing a split to replace the lost hive and then feeding them sugar syrup to boost the numbers up quickly. Keep an eye out for wax moth and SHB when you do full hive inspections, both can knock a weaker hive about badly…
Up here I do splits regularly to eliminate the bees urge for swarming and I sell my excess of complete working hives. I don’t believe there is a need to relocate a split, usually mine end up side by side in the apiary, and I believe that is a benefit to both the old and the new colonies. I leave it to the bees to produce a new queen but maybe that is a step up the ladder too far for you now.

Thanks for the thanks and looking forward to a future update from you. If in doubt - yell out.


Little update and new question! So my queen “eventually” arrived. That is she didn’t arrive and I tracked her down at the distribution centre on a weekend. They were kind enough to bring her over so she didn’t die - as it was 5 days after being posted. (australian post!). All seems fine and I have been feeding her and the nurse bees water for now. I have split the hive today. But still couldn’t find the queen. Which is obviously going to be a problem in 24 or 48 hours when I put the caged queen in one of the splits. I have also started feeding them honey syrup to help them out a bit, as I am not convinced the hive is strong enough. We have good weather ahead and I am hoping things go well. I have been observing the hive in the hours since the split and there are bees returning to both boxes - that’s at least a small win!
Question: We will have another really good look for the queen when we put the caged queen in. If we don’t find her - should I still put her in one box and leave the bees to work through it all? I am assuming if I pick the right box, the bees will hopefully accept her and all will be ok. If I pick the wrong box, bees will kill new queen? and in the other queenless box quickly raise another? Advice on approach if I don’t find queen would be appreciated. What would an experienced beekeeper do? :slight_smile:
Thank you so much


If you split the hive and wait 48 hours, the split without a queen should start making queen cells if there were any eggs or young larvae in the split. I would destroy those queen cells and put the shipped queen in there.

If you are going to wait 48 hours, I would also put a drop of honey on the mesh of the queen cage. Those bees are going to be pretty hungry right now.

Yes, if you pick the wrong box, the bees or the queen will try to kill the newcomer. :cry:


You are in a real predicament Katie. I think I had commented to you about the reliability of Australia Post, they really suck.
To the problem of finding the queen and I assume you have asked for help from your local bee group there and hit the proverbial wall. As a last resort open a new thread on the forum asking for help to find a queen in a hive at Katoomba, we have forum members on the blue mountains.
What you could do, and I have done it in the past, is to do the split with the two hives side by side, Leave the tops off the hives for 30 minutes for the bees to settle and to realize that one of the hives is queenless. Listen closely to the hives and one will be much more noisy and sound agitated, that is the one without a queen.
Rest the queen in her box on the top of the frames of the ‘noisy’ hive where you can watch how they respond to her. If they are interested and not attempting to sting her she is at the right box…
In the mean time put a few drops of honey on the cage wire and the queen will be fed by the attendants, they must be hungry.


By keeping her being fed with honey she will be fine for a few days at least but keep her in a warm place. By listening and looking at the bees response to her you should feel confident, but as @Dawn_SD has suggested you should also look for queen cells no the frames with new brood and that will be certainty on which hive is queenless.
Let us know how it goes. Wish I lived closer to be of more help.


Thanks Peter and Dawn, I have installed the new queen. I thought I would give you a little update. The split went well so far. When I opened them up 24 hours later, there were an even number of bees in both hives. I have decided to install the caged queen today as the workers with her were dying and the bees were a lot more lifeless than 2 days ago. I have been feeding them water and drops of honey. My gut told me I needed to install now or face dire consequences So with someone else with me we opened up Hive 1, and immediately found the queen! Yes!. Closed that hive and opened Hive 2 and installed the cage - firstly in a vertical position but I wasn’t convinced the bees would get to her to feed her, so did a quick search online and found an alternative way of putting her in , so immediately went back to the hive to change her position. -It pushes the frames a bit wider, but I will push them back in a few days. The bees were very active. I will check back in a few days time to see what’s happened with the queen in her cage and hopefully remove empty cage and put the the frames back closer together again. A few pics of queen, and both versions of installed cage.
Thanks again.


Looks like a nice queen in the bottom photo. The brood pattern is not too bad either. Great that you found her. I have found that dividing up big hives makes it easier to find the queen, especially when you have very aggressive bees.

Putting the queen cage on its side only works if you can can either rubber band it to the middle of the frame and spread the frames a little to give the bees access to mesh. They need at least 8 or 9 mm of bee space “above” the mesh to have room to feed her inside the cage. As you note, the frames will then be further apart, but they should release her within a couple of days, and then you can get everything back to normal spacing. Some people push the cage into the comb to avoid spreading the frames, but that seems overly destructive to me.

Well, you got some good experience, and took some nice photos. Well done! :blush: