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Queen Bee Emerged in 11 days? Is it even possible?

I am trying to requeen a small swarm I caught. I gave it a frame of brood with eggs and larvae and left it alone for 11 days. Then I checked yesterday to see what was happening. I expected/hoped to see a capped queen cell by that stage. However all I found was what looked like a torn down queen cell. I couldn’t see any queen, but there may have been a virgin queen there somewhere.

Is it remotely possibly that a queen could be formed and emerged in just 11 days? From what I understand it takes 16 days. It can be a few less if they start with a larvae that is 2 or 3 days old. But just 11 days seems quite unlikely?


Yep, sounds un-possible, but it isn’t. :crazy_face:

If your frame of brood went in 11 days ago, they could have started at day 6 of 15 to 16. That would mean 9-10 days for queen to appear if your weather is warm. The other possibility is that the swarm still had a queen with them, and you just didn’t spot her. Young queens are very elusive.

Any new eggs now?


I agree with @Dawn_SD Jack. When you consider that bees can produce a queen from anywhere between newly laid eggs to day 6 larvae (day 3 after hatching). We need to prepare ourselves, with that possibility in mind.

They can be hard to find. Just spend a little bit more time on each frame. Just look for a bee with a slightly longer abdomen on the move. Moving a bit faster than the rest of the bees.

I try to avoid looking for them because they are vulnerable to balling. The more time we spend looking, the bigger the chance of her getting balled. I kind of wonder if that’s the reason why they move around so quickly, to avoid getting killed.


we are only at 12 days in now- so wasn’t expecting to see eggs- and didn’t. I am almost 100% sure the swarm had no queen to start with. This was the swarm I put on another box leading to fighting and some loss of bees- and possibly the death of the swarm queen.

I didn’t look too hard for a new queen- as I am told virgin queens are harder to spot- and vulnerable- especially in their first few days. If there is indeed a virgin queen in there - I feel sure she is only 1 or two days old. I guess I will leave it a week or so while she hopefully gets mated (nice weather just now luckily) and then have a better look. If no eggs and no queen then I guess they get another frame of eggs. The good news is the frame I gave them was largely capped brood which has mostly hatched now boosting what was a ‘too small to make it through winter’ swarm, to a ‘just might make it swarm’.

I had thought they could use an egg/larvae up to three days old- not as long as 6 days. So hopefully that explains it. I would have thought given a choice they choose an egg- but then I guess they know best. The torn down cell was located where the eggs and larvae where at the edges of the fully capped brood. Fingers Crossed!

@JeffH why would the bees want to ball and kill their one and only queen? Maybe they chase her around like that- and if she can’t keep up and keep moving- they ball and kill her because she is too slow and too weak? Survival of the fittest?

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I look at it this way. A queenless, recently queenless, or about to become queenless hive is very, very nervous. Any disturbance, any imposter, anything unusual can send them into a frenzy. Just a whiff of alarm pheromone can make them ball their own queen. Sad but true, and I have seen it happen.

Just as @JeffH says, the best thing to do is not to look for the new queen too hard until they have had at least a couple of weeks to establish their reign. :blush:


Amazing how similar we are!

This reads just like attachment, and shows the vital importance of going slowly and gently around vulnerable beings :shushing_face::hugs:

Thanks for posting this Jack, it’s timely for me because I just received some nice brood frames from my beek associate on Saturday, which I’d arranged because my tiny survivor colony seemed not to be building much at all & I couldn’t find any eggs or larvae last weekend in spite of seeing a good-looking queen. I’d asked for two but she threw in two more, all really stuffed with brood in all stages and lots of bees!

So, I inspected the struggling hive before adding the frames & found a slightly elongated queen cup…while looking for eggs etc suddenly there was the queen, looking flat bust and motionless on top of a frame with a few attendants seeming to be trying to slap her awake…or something. Given the cup and the new frames going in I finished her off and left her on the top bar. There was a slight but definite rise in pitch to the workers’ buzzing at that moment.

I opted to put in two of the new frames, and make a new colony with the other two plus good brood comb & food leftovers I had. Yesterday was a gorgeous spring day, and I enjoyed seeing bees all over my crabapple & ground thyme and orienting to their new homes. But - both hives are currently queenless, so I’ll need to watch carefully and not too disruptively over the next couple of weeks!

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What does “ball” the queen mean? Kill her?

The bees mound on top of the queen in a huge pile. They vibrate their wing roots which generates a lot of heat. The temperature in the center of a “ball” of bees can reach as high as 45C (113F) and this will quickly kill whatever is in the middle of it. If you ever see hornets or yellow jackets attacking a hive, the bees will do this to them too.

The ball of bees is quite large - a little smaller than a tennis ball. Hilary Kearney has some video of bees doing it when there were multiple queens in a huge swarm. They decided which queen they wanted, and balled the rest.


You make them queenless and they start with a 4 day old (from when it was laid) which means under normal conditions it will emerge 12 days later. In hot weather I have see that as early ad 10 days later or in cold weather as long as 14 days later. That is a total of 16±2 days. http://bushfarms.com/beesmath.htm

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Hi Jack, it’s a mystery to me as to why the bees ball the only queen they have & the only chance the colony has to survive. When I say that the virgin queens move fast to avoid being killed is only my guess. I guess it’s only while we’re disturbing their hive that it happens, while the colony is stressed.

I came to a conclusion a couple of years ago that it’s best not to disturb the hive for a month during the queen rearing process because I got a much better success rate with the colonies away from home that I didn’t disturb than the ones at home that I did disturb. I’m using self control now & getting a better success rate over all.

I used to think that the bees only made queens from fertilized eggs. Once I learned that worker larvae gets fed royal jelly for the first 3 days, I came to realize that the bees can use 3 day larvae to turn into a queen, as long as it hasn’t been fed on any bee bread. That virtually doubles the bees options to raise emergency queens.

On your last questions "too slow and too weak? survival of the fittest? That gets sorted out by the virgin queens themselves. This is why I like the process of natural selection as opposed to random selection.


Hi Martha, Dawn answered that question beautifully. I’ve seen it several times, which makes me realize that it must happen more frequently than we’d be aware of.

I broke a ball of a young queen up last spring. The fortunate queen took off for her life into the frames. I added another frame of brood, then checked on them a week later to see if the colony caught up with her to ball her again. I was pleased to find new eggs. That was the extent of my inspection.


Here’s a picture of a queen being balled:


WOW! I’ve seen lumped up bees like that in my hives and blow in the ball to see if there is a queen under it and I’ve never found a queen in it. Perhaps a virgin queen? Thanks for the photo!