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Do I have a virgin queen?


Dear fellow-forum-beeks-who-keep-me-sane,

During an inspection last week, the three central frames from the brood box stuck to the super I was lifting it up, then fell with a crash. Since my frames are foundationless, it was a disaster. Comb broke on all three, I was picking brood comb up from the floor, etc. Aghast, I patched everything up as best as I could, closed up, and prayed that I hadn’t killed the queen.

When re-inspecting today, hoping to find brood or eggs, what I found instead was ZERO open brood, what seemed to me like precious little capped brood, and what seemed like lots of drone brood.

There were also about a dozen queen cells; all but two of them were hollowed out or contained dead bees. I’m hoping this is a good sign, and that there is now a virgin queen loose in the hive. I hope, I hope!

  • I’ve included photos below- does that look like a queen pupa, or a drone? My fear is that all those queen cells were full of drones due to laying workers / lack of young brood / etc…

  • When should I re-check for eggs or brood?

  • Right at this moment, my other hive doesn’t have enough open brood to spare a frame. I’m really concerned that, if no queen starts laying, this hive will just die. How long should I wait before giving up and doing a newspaper merge with my one other hive? The other hive will probably be able to spare a frame of brood within a week or two.

With many, many thanks


I can’t tell, but maybe somebody else can. The eyes look a little small for a drone, but I haven’t examined enough drone pupae to be sure. In a way it doesn’t matter, there are definitely queen cells in your photos.

It will take at least 3 weeks from your incident for a new queen to start laying, and might take a little longer.

That would be good to discourage any laying workers, plus give them another chance at making a queen if they need to.

I would give them at least a month to 5 weeks from your incident, unless you see something of concern before then.


Thanks Dawn!!
“There are definitely queen cells in your photos.“
Got it. So queen cells automatically means future queens? The reason I wasn’t sure is that our observation hive became a drone-laying hive, and out of lack of brood they apparently started making queen cells out of drone brood.

“at least a month to 5 weeks from your incident“
OK thanks. Here the reason I wasn’t sure is that I heard bees’ lifespan ranges around 6 weeks, and since there is zero brood in there, I figured every week the hive was losing bees and not getting replacements! So I thought maybe they might die off.

But if it’s OK to wait until then, great. Hopefully I can give them a frame of open brood in another two weeks.


There isn’t zero brood in there. There is capped brood in almost every photo, and a lot of it looks like worker brood. Some of it is definitely drone brood, but not all.

No. The queen may get killed by laying workers. She may get eaten on a mating flight. She may be defective. But queen cells mean that you have a good chance of having a queen in there. I have never heard of a hive making queens from drone brood - sounds very interesting! :blush:

@Michael_Bush has some calculations on his web site here:
Rusty Burlew has some more thoughts, but I can’t find her article at the moment. The point is, 28 days +/-5 days is if conditions are good. If the weather is rainy, windy or cold, it can delay mating by a week or more. If you don’t see laying by 5 weeks, your hive is definitely in trouble, but I would check before then. No need to worry any longer if everything looks great 4 weeks after the incident. :blush:


Yay! Yay! Yay!!! That is GREAT news!!!:clap:


I would still put in the donation frame of brood as soon as you can. You know what a pain it is to get laying workers… :wink:


With that lot I would leave it alone till you can afford a frame of brood from your other hive. After putting that in I would leave it again for a couple of weeks to let them get on with raising a new queen. Be very careful When you go in as queen cells are fragile.

You have a good cahnce with that hive.



That’s a queen pupa.


Can you say how/what distinguishes it as a Queen pupa, please?


I don’t know if I can. I can just tell by looking at her, but it’s pretty subtle. Here’s a photo of a dead virgin. See how they are the same shape.


Thanks as you said ‘subtle’ :slight_smile:, I can see what you are saying about the shape. It’s difficult without any sense of scale, for either.


Thank you all! I was able to put in a frame with a little bit of brood (eggs, uncapped, capped) because my other recently-merged hive is doing better than expected. Fingers crossed!!!


So I inspected the hive this morning. There were no eggs, no open brood, very little capped brood. Some old queen cells torn open and one capped. I figured it had been enough time (three weeks) that, had there been a virgin queen there three weeks ago, there should have been eggs at least.

I merged this hive with my strong hive via newspaper method. Maybe the single sheet of newspaper I’d put in between wasn’t enough, because although I couldn’t see any fighting at the hive entrance, the bees have been bringing out a steady flow of dead bees.