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Multiple Queens

Hi All,

Disaster…

I did a brood inspection today to find out why the flow box does not see any serious movements after a few weeks.

I noticed that I had a few queen cells in the brood box and two of them had larvae in them! I checked other frames and saw my queen strolling around, minding her business and all good with her. So, I was puzzled why the colony decided to make more queens as there is no issue with the space (there are still a couple of frames yet to be completed), hence no need to swarm. So, I decided to squash one of the new queen cells and remove another. But unfortunately, I lost my original queen during this commotion and later found her — on the ground, dead :frowning:

I had one queen cell intact which I returned to the box. See the photo.

Also on inspecting other frames more thoroughly, I found yet another queen cell with a newborn queen being hatched! I left this one alone. I hope she is in there trying to make sense of all this!

So, my questions are:

  • Is the newly born queen going to replace the old one? If so, how long would it take for the queen to mate and start laying eggs? note that we are in the summer and I am not sure if we have drones hanging around.
  • Should I buy a new mated queen and add her to the colony?
  • Will the new queen cell that I just dropped into the hive hatch?

I would greatly appreciate your help as this has been a massive disappointment for me.

Cheers.

It sounds like your colony has decided to swarm. Bees don’t need to run out of room in order to swarm. They swarm because that is how they reproduce. The conditions must be right for it at the moment. There must be plenty of drones around, who knows, maybe some scout bees flew past a huge DCA (drone congregation area), then decided to instigate swarm procedures. That’s only a wild speculation.

I wouldn’t buy a new queen. I would leave the colony now for about 2.5 to 3 weeks before doing another inspection to see if that virgin queen got successfully mated or not. Young queens are susceptible to getting balled & killed during inspections. I keep first inspections as brief as possible. As soon as I see sealed worker brood, I abort the inspection, for the welfare of the queen.

You’re looking at about 10 days for the queen to mate & start laying, then another 9 days before you see any sealed brood.

The new queen cell that you dropped could hatch, on the other hand, she could get killed by the one you saw emerging.

Don’t think of it as a “disaster”. It’s just bees doing what comes natural to them.

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Don’t stress. The colony sounds like it has the resources to produce a new queen.

Check back in 2 weeks time.

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Thanks a lot for your detailed response Jeff. Made a lot of sense.

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Cheers Fred. As a newbee, any shock to the system is a bit disappointing to me. Thank you for the advice.

Hi Fred,

As you know, it has been a month since I squashed the queen. I was hoping that the hive would make a new queen.

Yesterday, I inspected the hive and saw only half a frame of capped brood and some larva cells. I am not very good at finding eggs so I don’t know if they are present but to my untrained eyes there was none there. There were a few full honey/nectar frames and also pollen cells. They are bringing pollen into the hive too.
I could not find the new queen. I think there is no queen, I could not see a lot of drones and/or drone cells so I assume the workers have not started laying yet.

Numbers are still low and two frames are empty, one drawn and one completely empty.

Given that we are getting closer to the fall, do you think I should re-queen the hive now?

I will have another look into the hive this weekend (weather permitting) to see if I can locate the queen if she is there. Not sure what else I can do to save the colony.

Thanks for the help.

Hi @Roshi, finding larvae is a good sign. It means that the queen has been around in the last 10 days. Of course, eggs are even better, as it means she’s been there at least in the last 3 days.

Proof of life:

If you do, get us some photos and we can interpret the health of the hive for you. Given that you were queenless for a few weeks, the bee population will dwindle a bit before it recovers. Your hive may have cast a swarm in the process - further dwindling the numbers. If you have a bee buddy nearby with a strong hive, i’m sure they would be willing to donate a frame or two of capped brood to help boost the population. Alternatively, you could pack down the hive so they have a smaller space to defend, and reintroduce the unused frames as they build back up. It’s worth taking your super off if you haven’t already done so.

Going into winter, you want your bees to have good stores of food.

Cheers

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Thanks Fred. I will get to the hive next time the sun is up! I think it is promised to be Saturday. I will take some photos from the capped brood and also the larvae. I hope they are not drones being laid by the workers.

There is no super at the moment and plenty of honey and nectar in the brood box.

Hi Fred,

I inspected the hive again yesterday and to my surprise it is a healthy hive with lots of brood, larvae and food. Here are the proof:

Note that I could not locate the queen as I am still working on my queen spotting skills.

I have no super and I think in a few weeks I can add one as the hive will be full and I need honey to be stored for the winter. At the moment 2 frames are empty.

Cheers,

Roshi.

P.S. the new phone cameras are fantastic. They make you look like a pro!

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Great pictures. Great enough to make me ask the next question of the more experienced beekeepers - do those young larvae and cells look a little dry (not very much royal jelly)?