Queen drama in all three hives


I’m in Western Australia and I’m in a pickle.

I have three hives and have problems with all.

One was a weak hive last season but after a lot of feeding and care they become a strong colony this spring. Just checked them this morning and found no new brood, no queen and one queen cell a third up on the comb from bottom. I assume the queen died and that’s a supercedure cell. Yesterday a bee from this hive attacked me when I was 20m away and may be related to their queenlessness.

The other two are new hives from this year’s splits. Both successfully made queens, mated and started laying. One is again queenless with no brood and several queen cells present.

The other is also lacking brood, but saw a queen. She looked small so maybe a new queen perhaps and not yet mated? I didn’t see any queen cells a week ago. No remnants of queen cells and hive is weak.

I took a frame with two queen cells from the other hive and placed in this. Now doubting whether that’s a good idea and should have left that queen alone.

So, am I just unlucky or is there something sinister going on?

Thank you.

To me it sounds like bad luck, barring any obvious signs of disease. If I were in your shoes I’d buy two frames with lots of eggs and young brood from another beek and put them into the other two hives. They all might need a little feeding if their numbers are low, just to get off the ground even though you might be in a nectar flow now. Or you could buy two new queens.

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Thanks Eva. I don’t have any diseases though occasionally I get chalkbrood.

I don’t really know other beekeepers that can sell me frames here, and queens are on a wait list. I can do feeding when necessary though they have enough of nectar and pollen at this stage.

Irony is I just sold two very strong nucs this week. I might have to buy one myself if queens are not successful.

I’m still not sure how three queens in three hives gone missing within a week. Very odd.

I agree with @Eva on buying the frames with lots of eggs & young brood. If nucs are available to buy, it wouldn’t surprise me if frames of brood can also be negotiated.

Maybe you need to brush up on time lines of queens bees & brood, etc.

I don’t think that anything sinister is going on, it could just be a lack of knowledge. With a bit more of that, plus more experience, we can make our own luck.

What makes you assume that from what I asked? I was not expecting any of these 3 hives to make new queens as two already had new queens and the other was a recovering hive with a young queen with no signs of swarming etc.

I think it was your third & fourth paragraph, plus when you said “am I just unlucky, or is there something sinister going on”.

Don’t take it to heart. Understanding time lines is helpful when it comes to our expectations of when things should take place.

I’m having an interesting year, and my problems just got weirder.

The strong hive I had that lost the queen (and I found with new queen cells) are now in the next stage. Queen cells open but no sign of virgin queen or otherwise. Presumably she’s out mating.

So far so good. Problem is the super (it had a super on because it was a strong hive before they lost the queen)…… is full of beautiful brood!!!

Worker/s are laying. I googled this but I found the contradictory information overwhelming.

What do you people think about this and in how much trouble I am?

Can you post a photo of the ‘beautiful brood’? Is it worker or drone brood? What makes you think you have a laying worker/s?

Sometimes recently emerged queens can be hard to spot… Plus I found that young queens like that are vulnerable to getting balled & killed during inspections. Therefore my strategy is to not inspect for about 3 weeks after queen cells have been identified. In that case I’m looking for worker brood prior to, or in the early stage of getting sealed. I’ll keep that inspection brief, for the same reason.

Thanks Jeff I think you’re onto something.

Definitely not drone brood. Very beautiful worker brood. I didn’t see the queen in the super but I didn’t look too hard either. I was not expecting her there. And I like to keep inspections brief. 7 days ago I saw sealed queen cells.

The queen cells were in the brood box. I assumed it a laying worker because I couldn’t think of anything else.

Could it be the queen was small and went through the queen excluder? I had this stainless steel excluder for 8 years and never failed.

Now you got me thinking, do laying workers lay workers or drones?

Only drones come from unfertilsed eggs

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When you say “super”, do you mean Flow super or honey super with traditional frames? My reason for asking is that Flow frames have drone size cells, which will result in drone brood.

Metal QEs can have minor imperfections which will allow the queen to pass through once she finds one, even if it takes 8 years to happen.

Like @john_lawson said, only drones come from unfertilized eggs.

If it’s at all possible, photos really help to clear things up.

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Hi Jeff thanks for that. I’m not keen on opening up the hive again for photos especially after your comment about balling new queens, which I took on board.

From your advice, this is definitely not a laying worker problem. The hive is traditional Langstroth so no flow frames in the super (sorry am I still allowed to post here? I did have flow hives in the past though)

The brood is flat capped not protruding like drone, I’m 100% confident of that. It is not scattered, just in the middle of the frame inside the honey arch.

I guess, next question is what’s the solution? Shall I swap the boxes or at least the frames with brood and try to find the queen with them? Checkout the queen excluder for irregularities and replace if necessary?

My lingering doubt is that I saw the sealed queen cells just 7 days before and I thought that’s a quick turnaround for the queen to emerge, go mate, come back and lay, and have so much brood already capped. Unless there was another queen that emerged before…… which is unlikely as I didn’t see any in the previous inspection. Roast me Jeff, what am I missing :slight_smile: ?

We are not “hive-ist” on this Forum. Anyone with beekeeping questions is welcome to post and can expect to be treated with respect and support, at least as I understand the rules. I am not a moderator. If you are a good person, and you care about bees and beekeeping, ask anything you want! We may not be specialists in top bar hives or skeps, but general bee biology and beekeeping is what most of us care about above anything else to do with hive types.



Ok thanks Dawn_SD. Good to know :slight_smile: Not sure I’m a good person though, but I’ll assure you I care about my bees.

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That means that you are a good person!



Thanks John, I missed your reply. That confirms I don’t have laying workers.

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You’re welcome Beeuu, I wont criticize you for not using your Flow super. It’s good to know what we’re dealing with. Timelines in my view play a big part in managing bee populations. As you pointed out, it would be impossible for a recently emerged queen to achieve so much in such a short space of time. I wonder if the queen got above the QE, & couldn’t find her way back down, so the bees below decided to make a new one, which never works out without fertile eggs. Was there any eggs or very young brood above the QE? if so, that would indicate that the queen was still up there.

Because you are using traditional frames, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to temporarily remove the QE. I recently removed one myself on account that I found brood above it. What I’ll do is find the gap, before filling it with plastibond, before putting it back on the hive.

I made myself a QE gauge about 20 plus years ago out of pine. I made it so it wont fit through normal gaps, however it fits through larger gaps. You can go cross eyed doing this, however I check each gap with my gauge, marking each gap as I go. Then I put masking tape on one side, before filling the gap with plastibond. After the plastibond sets, I peel the tape off before filling that side. I might add that I’ve never had a queen go above a QE where I didn’t find a gap to fill. Plus I’ve never had any plastibond fall out, on account that it’s held in place by the radius’s of the 2 wires.

QEs are made to a price. Therefore we can expect to find imperfections in them, and “I” do.

PS. I found a photo I shared a few years ago, showing the repairs I’m talking about. As you can see in the photo, it was repaired more than once.

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Thanks mate. This might remain one of those unsolved mysteries then. Was hoping someone will point to me something obvious that I’m missing.

I didn’t look for eggs as my eyesight won’t permit, but saw little larvae up there. I’m sure I’ll find the queen next time. I’ll remove the excluder and have a closer look at that. I might have widened a gap last time I cleaned it.

I notice new queens are quite small and always wondered whether they go through the excluder. They do get bigger once they mate, as far as I’m aware. Not sure whether they swell a bit after they start laying too, I never measured them, just casual observation.

I like your idea of fixing the gaps with Plastibond. I don’t like waste. Does that hold well, being quite rigid, while the excluder is a bit more flexible… especially when pulling up a glued on one?

I’ll look up the diameter of the thorax of a queen and make a gauge like yours with some pop sticks :+1:

Thanks again for sharing your knowledge.

I haven’t had any plastibond fall out, on account that it’s locked in between the wires. I apply it with a putty knife. By applying it from both sides, it locks together, & wont come out.

I don’t think that young queens fit through QEs, because the thorax is a constant. It’s the abdomen that changes in size. It’s the thorax that wont fit through.

I just got a piece of pine & a sharp paring knife & started shaving one side down until it was slightly larger than standard QE gaps. Then as it turned out, it fit through larger gaps. I’m still using that same piece of pine I shaped over 20 years ago.

Hi Jeffery, that hive I had with brood in the super, I did find the queen in the brood box last week. She must have found her way down. Anyway, I replaced the queen excluder, and left them sort themselves out.

Today, queen was happily laying beautiful brood in the brood box. No new brood in the super but I found a capped queen cell in the super. I thought that’s a bit strange. Some may have thought they lost their queen? The queen is from this year.

Anyway, I took that frame out and made a quick split. What would you have done?