HELP! Queenless! Gold Coast Hinterland, QLD, Australia

I have just opened up my hive after winter and discovered my hive is well and truly queenless (in retrospect should have opened it up sooner but being my first season and being constrained by 7mo pregnant + toddler, I guess mistakes were bound to happen).

This is the state of my hive:

  • No brood, no eggs.
  • A hatched queen cell but no evidence of her that I could see.
  • About 4 frames worth of capped honey, which includes a couple of frames in the super.
  • Looks like there are still workers foraging (in and out of hive). I guess they are possibly robbers, but then the untouched capped honey frames would seem to contradict that?
  • Probably a nuc hive worth of bees in the brood box - probably 50-50 workers and drones. It was a time of day where most workers are probably out foraging, given they would be getting pretty old by this point.
  • Wax on a couple of the frames has been eaten away in pockets, which made me wonder about robbing…

The odd thing is, my neighbour came over yesterday to tell me my bees were doing great because his avocado tree was absolutely covered in them!

I’m pretty devastated. I only started the hive in October last year. I was so diligent through the summer and autumn and they looked pretty good heading into winter. I lifted the lid a couple of times in winter just to check they still had food in the super, which they did; in fact the last time I checked (probably 6-9 weeks ago) the amount of capped honey had increased.

I know I need to get a new queen in there ASAP but any other advice on what to do would be appreciated.
Like, should I put in a frame of brood as well? Where could I get this from?

Also wondering if getting a new queen gives me the opportunity to move the hive at all, as I now realise the location I have it is not ideal, and I believe too much shade has led to some pest and disease (chalk brood) issues. The bees were able to deal with these, but would be good if the hive location was on their side to make it easier for them.

Thanks everyone :frowning:

where to get a frame of brood? Off a local beekeeper. Do you know any?

You really need a frame with fresh eggs and larvae on it. You also need to have a hive with enough bees in it to look after that new frame. So if you can get an experienced beekeeper to come and have a look at your hive and assess what is going on that would be great.

You did say you saw a hatched queen cell: so there is a chance at least that there is a queen in the hive. If she only hatched (really ‘emerged’) very recently- then there is still a chance that she is either in the process of getting mated still- or about to start laying eggs imminently. This should be visible in the form of fresh eggs some time in the next week or so. After emerging in can take up to 12 days maybe before the queen is mated and starts laying. So there is a chance you have looked in as that process is happening.

Don’t be devastated: it happens.

Getting a new queen wont help with moving the hive- to do that you have two options- you can move the hive incrementally a foot or two a day towards the new location- or you can move the hive to a new site at least 5km from your current location- leave it there for a few weeks and then move it back to your preferred location.

One thing is a concern: 50-50 drones to workers. This probably indicates that you have laying workers- who only produce drones. That’s an issue I have not yet had to deal with - and again- if you can find an experienced local beekeeper to help you that will be the best solution.


Thanks for your reply @Semaphore.

When I saw the drones that was also my first thought - but then, there is no evidence of eggs or brood? So if they started laying eggs then they have stopped again. I am thinking perhaps it is just that the vast majority of the worker bees at this point are probably older and therefore out foraging (perhaps the bees that are at my neighbours place).

I was able to get in contact with my bee supplier who can probably supply a queen later this week. I will need to check the hive before then to make sure the new queen has really failed. He said it’s quite common for them not to return from their virgin flight. He thought that the hive had probably swarmed as it’s been happening a lot in our area, although couldn’t really explain why they would do this with empty frames in the super.

I am planning to visit my neighbour to see if perhaps the ‘millions of bees’ he saw might be my swarm.

I know one local beekeeper who I can ask for help but am waiting to hear back from him.

Thanks again :slight_smile:
I guess I’m learning the hard way!!

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so you can’t see any of the bullet shaped capped drone cells? I guess that’s a good sign. Perhaps the old or emergency queen failed and managed to make some drones before she died.

I think I read somewhere that maybe 10% of virgin queens fail to survive getting mated it’s a definite possibility.

Swarming would normally happen with appox. 6- 15 swarm queen cells left behind- yet you have only one. So maybe not a swarm? Or half swarm/half ‘absconding’.

whatever the case- a queen or a frame of eggs should resolve it- you said there was a 'Nuc’s worth of bees- to my mind that’s quite a lot- at least 3-4 cupfulls? But at 50% lazy drones their work abilities will be quite compromised.

You can look again in a few days to see if there is any sign of a queen in the hive.

Actually: I just had a thought: if your hive has 3 or more almost completely empty combs that the remaining bees are not covering anymore- on the outer edges- a good strategy at this stage can be to reduce them down to 5 frames in a Nuc Box. They will find this much easier to maintain while they are weak. Then when you established a new queen- and she fills out the Nuc box you can transfer them back into the big hive and give them back the frames you took out (though you can also use this method to closely look at all the frames and permanently remove any that are obviously affected with chalkbrood, which you said you had)

Last year I tried to bring a colony back from swarming in the early spring in the original hive and it never built back up well- only at the end of the season I finally condensed it down to a smaller Nuc box and then it finally recovered.

If you do this now, it is so early in the season that that the bees can build up very quickly still. Also moving a Nuc Box across your yard to the new location will be much easier than moving the large hive.


A swarm perhaps? Looks like you have thought of that. I would shrink the bees down to a nucleus box if you can. They won’t survive if they have too much space. I agree with the frame of brood concept, but it might also be good to get another beekeeper to go through your hive with you for a second opinion. :blush:

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You have already been given good advice. If you are not sure you can check for a queen in the hive as for help in doing it. You really need to know the hives status before you go about getting a new queen. Your other option is a frame of eggs and nurse bees and the bees will produce their own new queen.
Regards Winnie

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Oh that is great advice thank you @Semaphore, also @Dawn_SD and @Peter48
I actually also have a false side made of plywood that I could put in to reduce the hive down by any number of frames (was made for when they had chalk brood but never used as they managed to completely get rid of it on their own by the time I went to put it in).
Although, I will definitely consider reducing to a brood box in order to move it…
I have reached out to a beekeeper nearby but I think he feels too inexperienced to be giving his opinion. :confused: Anyway, will be putting out a post on a local fb page.
@Dawn_SD I went to check my neighbour’s place and there were a fair number of bees over there but nothing unusual or even above average for the amount of flowers. I think he must have been comparing to last season when there weren’t any bees at all. :laughing:

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If you need someone to look at your hive I can make the time to tie in with one of my days in Brissy. 0456710016 or my charges is reasonable – a black coffee 2 sugars.

Hi Wynnie perhaps get in touch with @JeffH to see if he can supply you with a nuc.
We had a similarr issue not long ago and I bought a nuc and just merged the remaining bees ,no problems going great.


Thank you, that is so kind! I’m not in Brisbane though, I’m actually in the hinterlands behind the Gold Coast so it may be too far out of your way?
Am also currently in hospital for a few days with pregnancy complications (thanks universe, great timing) so my bee plans are now all a bit up in the air. I’m hoping to get discharged tomorrow though and will still aim to get a queen in next week (pending health obviously) as that seems to be the earliest I will be able to source one now.

@Gaz yes I have thought of getting a nuc, I can get one nearby for about $300 I think, but not sure how soon. I think JeffH is about 2.5h from me (I’m GC Hinterland) so not too practical as I probably shouldn’t be driving (see post above). I’d prefer to avoid paying for an entire nuc unless I can get something cheaper or it’s def too late for a new queen.

Sorry to read that you are not well. I hope it all comes out well for you.
I think that is a very high price for a nuc. That is what I sell a complete brood hive for, a complete hive minus the super but with a mouse guard, strap, etc…
But are you sure (positive) the hive is queenless? Can you get someone who can confirm that, maybe from the local bee group.
It is a bit far for me but I would suggest you get in touch with JeffH about a nuc if it is needed and we might be able to help you out. Jeff is a real gentleman and supplied me with nucs when I wanted to begin bee keeping again…