Honeyflow.com | FAQ's | Community |

Major queen issues


I am in a hurry, I might add more info later but the gist is I have 2 new packages that I think killed the queen and are laying drones. I am wondering if there were laying workers in the package to begin with and killed the queens. Never had that happen before. There were eggs within a few days of releasing the queen so I thought we were good but only drone cells are developing and I can’t find the queen. To make matters worse, my strong hive did not mate properly, she only lays drones so I killed her and will merge the old queen back in with the newspaper trick. My other hive the queen has been a weak layer all spring. She lays workers but only a couple frames and the rest are drones. Argh!

My question is this: since laying workers are impossible to find and will not accept a new queen, Can I move the hive and put the new queen in the same location so the flying bees move back in with the new queen in the old location while leaving the laying worker behind? Will that work or do laying workers leave the hive?



The packages didn’t come with mated queens? It sounds like the one did not mate properly if she is only laying drones. If the queen is dead you have one of two options. One-buy a new queen to put in the hive and two-put a frame of eggs from another hive into the colony to allow them to build an emergency queen cell/cells. Once the queen pheromone is back in the hive I would think the laying worker would cease.

I have re-queened hives in the same location you will need to check their temperament when you introduce the new queen. The other thing is make sure they have the resources they need to make the royal jelly (ie, pollen/nectar). I have put pollen patties on the top bars and fed sugar water early in the season.

If you do have a queen that is laying workers put a frame with eggs back in the hive you have the laying worker. They should build a queen cell from those eggs and hopefully get you back on track. Then if you have the time you could requeen the weaker hive. Good luck and let us know how it turns out!


Let me just make sure that I understand what you are saying. You will move the laying worker hive some distance away (say more than 20 feet), then set up another hive with the new queen at the old hive location? What support will she have in that hive? Empty frames? Frames from another hive?

I would suggest that you have 2 better options.

  1. Put a frame of young worker brood into the laying worker hive from another hive (if you have one). When they start making queen cells, you can destroy the cells and introduce the new queen.
  2. If you don’t have spare frames of young worker brood, I would consider the shake out method. Take the brood box at least 30 feet from the hive, and shake all of the bees off onto the ground, frame by frame. As soon as you get all of the bees off each frame, take it back to the old location. The theory is that laying workers don’t make it back to the hive. You should then be able to introduce your new queen an hour or two after that. Make sure that the hive looks accepting of her - not biting the cage or trying to sting her.


Option 2 is what I was thinking about moving the hive and having the flying bees make it back to the old location while leaving the laying worker behind. But maybe too many would stay at the new location if they have a hive to stay in.

My plan was to give the new queen in the old location some supplies and workers.

Out of my 5 hives I only have one good laying queen which I am trying to merge back into her prior strong hive because her replacement must not have mated properly since she only layed drones. Looked like a fullsize queen though. She died this morning from an overly strong hug from pliers. I am using newspaper to reintroduce her.

So good brood frames are few right now. Unbelievable that both new packages seems to have rejected their queen and within days were laying drones. I am thinking bad packages, otherwise I think it takes longer for workers to start laying.


Usually at least a month. :thinking:


Yup, that why I wonder if I was given a laying worker since they are laying drones within a week of installing. That or unmated queens but I can’t find them.


Time to call your package supplier then?


Thanks @John_Yeager and @Dawn_SD .

I have 4 hives with 3 different queen issues. I am going to get queens hopefully by this weekend and install them depending on the issue. The hardest being the laying workers, though I am hoping I just couldn’t find the queens. Much easier situation is it is just bad queens…kill and replace.

I will try to post an upate as things progress.



If you aren’t seeing multiple eggs in each cell, and I mean on the cell walls, bottom and scattered about the inside of the cell, chances are there is a dud queen. With the cold weather the ENTIRE east coast has had this Spring they were probably poorly mated.


some of the hives I saw piles of eggs in the same cell. Some even in half full pollen cells. The swarm prevention split hive definitely had a poorly mated queen which is now gone. Another hive has a poorly mated queen since she lays some workers but not many so she needs replaced. The two packages that I couldn’t find a queen and is full of drone cells have eggs piled everywhere. Blahhhhhhh. Those 2 will be the challenge to install a new queen.



I have been doing reading and it seems the only way to save a worker laying hive is to keep giving laying workers open brood until they start making a queen cell, then they will accept a new queen. Can take up to 3 weeks, by then the bees you are trying to save only have a week ore 2 left assuming they were already a few weeks old. The shake method doesn’t seem very reliable. I might just shake the 2 package hives out and let them join other hives, then install a new package with new queens. I might use one and merge with a strong hive. Not sure, I don’t want to make a bad situation worse.

Seems the most sure use of the bees is to shake them out remove their hives and let them join stronger hives and start over with the new hives. I realize some will die but no sense in losing new queens.


The shake method works. Put a frame of open brood in another brood box on the original position. Take the colony about 30 meters away, then shake all the bees out. They quickly return to the original site. I did that the other day.

I figure now, the quicker I do this, the better. I’m disliking good worker comb full of drones more & more.

The best way to allow bees to enter other colonies is if the bees are carrying honey or nectar. If you are going to allow the bees to enter other colonies, smoke them well first, so they fill up on honey.


Jeff, did you do this because of laying workers? Did they make or accept a new queen?

I had read that some one marked a few laying workers and then did the shake method and some of the marked laying workers returned to the hive.



Joe, if someone went to the impossible task of picking out a laying worker would it not make sense to give her the big flick? Rather than do a shake with her already marked? Then introduce a new queen or have the colony breed their own queen.

I have to think that story is just that, a story, I heard it about 35 years ago, and regularly since.

As Jeff says, shaking does work so give it a try, you have no better option.


Hi Joe, I did this on account of a laying worker. I wont persevere with laying workers any longer. I don’t try to introduce new queens. I let them make their own.

There is a second strategy that also works & you can do it in conjunction with the first strategy.

Remove the frames laden with drone larvae & replace them with one frame of open brood during a honey flow & or good weather. Swap that hives position with a larger size queen rite colony. The bees from the laying worker hive will move into the queen rite hive at the same time as the bees from the queen rite hive move into the laying worker hive.

With the influx of bees from the queen rite hive moving into the laying worker hive, those bees will dominate & influence the starting of queen cells.

I did the combination of both for the first time recently & it really worked. I identified that the new queen was laying fertile eggs last Friday. On that day I only did the first strategy with another colony. I used brood from the new queen in that case.


If it was just one laying worker then it would be easy to just kill it but from what I have read that there are many laying workers when this happens with dozens of layers or more and hard to idenfy all of them. I can’t proove this either way.


I found an actual study on laying workers. Its findings were that forages bees were more likely to develop ovaries compared to non-forager workers. This would imply that laying workers make it back to the hive after being shaken. But maybe the shaking methods works anyway for other reasons.

“Furthermore, in comparisons of age-matched samples taken from three independent queenless colonies, at 14 days of age there was no difference in the level of ovary activation between foragers and nonforagers, but at 21 days of age the overall degree of ovary activation was higher in foragers, and foragers were more likely to have fully developed ovaries (containing at least one developed egg) than nonforagers (Wald χ2 = 9.216, n = 73, df = 1, p = 0.002). In addition, bees that were marked in the act of laying were as likely to be later observed foraging as bees that did not lay (Wald χ2 = 0.300, n = 30, df = 1, p = 0.5839; see Figure S1 available online).”

I may still try the shake method and see what happens. Interesting stuff.


I would try the shaking method as JeffH has described, he has been around bees for some time but is not a closed book, he is open to trying other options and adjusts his thinking when he sees better ways of doing something.
You have nothing to loose by trying it except a bit of time and look forward to your updates.


Yes I agree with Peter, go out & do it.

You’ll go dizzy looking at all of those figures. Don’t get into information overload.


Checked 4 of 5 hives. My big hive has accepted the old queen back in after the new queen failed to mate properly and only laid drones. I killed the queen and did the newspaper trick. It worked as it always has.

The old queen split that is now queen less since I put the queen back in the big hive has 12 queen cells.

The one package hive that has laying workers seem to be build queen cells from the frame of worker eggs I gave it last week end, so good sign although I did see fresh drone eggs as well.

The other package hive that must be full of laying workers has not built queen cells but I did just give it another fresh frame of eggs last night.

My 4 new queens arrived today so I will begin to install a new queen in the split hive, my medium sized hive that has a poorly mated queen (lays only a few frames of workers and the rest drones), but i am torn on the 2 package hives.

I am thinking I will shake both out if weather permits and put a queen cage in with the one that appears to be ready for a queen. The other one it seems i should wait until they try to build a queen cell before install a new queen. Should I shake both out asap and install a queen in the one that seems ready and wait until the other shows signs of building a queen? Or shake both and install queens in both?

It is rainy all week so weather is not optimal. (South Central Pennsylvania)