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Queen present but not laying?

Hi all!

I’ve started my first and only hive with package bees back in April.

Everything looked great until I checked last week (after a week where I was traveling and unable to check, so it had been 2 weeks since I had last seen eggs and larvae), and I noticed only a few larvae and no eggs. The queen was present, so I figured that maybe the bees didn’t have enough nectar sources and she stopped laying (it’s been hot and dry here in Central TX). I have been feeding them sugar water and pollen patties for the past week and they’ve been devouring it.

I went in today (so 3 weeks after I last saw lots of eggs and larvae, 1 week after starting supplemental feed) and there are no eggs, no larvae, and only a few capped brood remain. The queen is still present, but the bees were fairly aggressive as I was looking in the hive.

It looks like they’ve been filling the brood nest with pollen and nectar/sugar water. No obvious signs of any disease or pests (except for a very few hive beetles). Plenty of bees present overall. Any suggestions? I know time is of the essence at this point, so any advice or things to look into would be appreciated!

Thanks!

I am a newbie and looking forward to the responses from the more experienced members of the forum. Do you have pictures or other info to share about your last inspection? You said that they were backfilling the brood frames with honey and pollen, which seems to me like what they should be doing this time of year.

What breed of bees do you have? Mite count? Other than the aggressive behavior, anything unusual?

I am not sure about Central TX but maybe they are just responding to a dearth plus end of season and the queen is very sensitive to the level of foraging. Maybe the feeding should obviate this tendency to decrease the egg laying?

Thanks for the response. I don’t have pics of the frames today. The bees were a bit agitated so I was trying to be in the hive as little as possible.

My queen is an Italian queen from a relatively local and well-respected apiary.

I currently have a deep and two mediums on the hive - the deep and first medium are fully drawn and the top medium is newer and has about half the frames drawn with comb. The queen had previously been laying in the bottom two boxes pretty normally.

I noticed last week that there seemed to be fewer frames of honey and/or less honey on the tops of the brood frames, so I attributed the lack of queen laying (since I saw her) to dearth, which wouldn’t be surprising given the temps have been over 100 several weeks in a row. I fed them some pollen patty and sugar water and they immediately devoured it, so I’ve replenished regularly over the past week.

The first medium box (in the middle of the 3 boxes) is filled pretty well with honey and nectar. The bottom box (the deep) also had a lot of nectar and pollen, but I noticed that much of it has been placed in the old brood cells. The empty brood cells that aren’t filled with nectar or pollen appear to be in great shape. The bees have polished them and they appear to be ready for new brood. No signs of moths or anything like that.

I didn’t see any obvious signs of mites on the bees, and I haven’t seen any signs on the bottom board. The only thing I’ve seen a little of is SHB, but I only saw one today, so I wasn’t concerned.

The only other “different” thing I’ve noticed in the past month was that there were more drone cells (not a ton though) and a few empty queen cells at the bottom of a few frames. None of the queen cells have ever had an egg (I checked closely). I only saw one queen cup left today and it was also empty.

My best guess at this point is that something Is up with the queen. If she’s just not producing, it’s unclear why the bees didn’t try to replace her, but I’ve read that sometimes it happens. :woman_shrugging:

Unless someone else has a reco, I think at this point, given that there are no eggs or larvae and very few capped brood cells left, my best option is to requeen. Unfortunately, I have only one hive, so I don’t have the option to put in a frame with brood to see if that helps.

Any other suggestions are definitely welcome!

Thanks!

Another newby here. Just wondering if you’re mainly getting drone cells (are they capped or empty), maybe the queen has run out of sperm. Is she young? Maybe as you said, the best option would be to requeen. You’ll have no bees left after 4-6 weeks if she doesn’t lay soon. Maybe difficult to find queens at this time of year for you? If the girls were making queen cells maybe they sensed she wasn’t “performing” to expectation. All the best with it.

It sounds like you need to re-queen as a best option. It has gone beyond the time that the colony can produce a new queen themselves. Maybe the guy who supplied you bees can supply a new queen.
If the bees are foraging nectar then that isn’t the reason for the queen not laying, but are the bees foraging for nectar and pollen naturally or relying on what you are supplying them?
The ambient heat shouldn’t be an issue but make sure they have a water supply handy.
Normally if a queen fails the colony will terminate her and produce a new queen, but it seems they haven’t done that.
When you have a new queen find the old queen and terminate her 24 to 48 hours before you introduce the new queen so her pheromones are no longer in the hive.
Very likely the hive will be aggressive till they have a new queen.
Please keep us up to date with progress.
Cheers

Hi Amanda, welcome! Requeening or giving a hive a frame or two of open brood and eggs will solve your problem, but both have their caveats - I’m hoping you have someone willing to answer your questions and help you more pertinently to your climate and seasonal changes where you are. For instance, I assume that in central TX you might be in a nectar dearth at this time - which would possibly account for lower brood production. A healthy colony will respond to the elements and only a local beekeeper could tell you for sure if your situation really IS a problem or not.

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Thanks, all!

I’ve decided to go ahead and requeen. Hopefully the new bees will accept her and she will begin laying eggs once she’s released!