I am new to beekeeping this year. I live in Northern Idaho. After a strong start to spring, we experienced about 2 weeks of temps in the 50s(and sometimes below). When the weather broke, I did a hive inspection and noticed a decrease larvae and capped brood. That trend continued, and I saw several uncapped queen cells. Additionally, the honey stores were growing. Last week, since the brood chamber seemed to be full of honey, I added a honey super and moved a couple of frames of comb into the center of the brood nest. In today’s inspection I hoped to see some brood in the new comb, but I just saw more honey. There is also a capped queen cell. I first thought the problem was it was just honey bound. Then today I thought perhaps it was queenless. But before I finished the inspection I saw the queen so I am a bit confused. Are they preparing to swarm, or are they replacing a non-laying queen, or is the queen I saw possibly a new queen who isn’t laying yet. HELP!
Where are the queen cells located? This will indicate if it’s a supersede cell or a swarm cell.
If you have indeed spotted a virgin queen (do we call them princess??? ), then you’ll need to let nature take it’s course. She is probably waiting for the right weather conditions to take a mating flight.
Any larvae on your last inspection?
Seems like adding extra frames was good idea.
True, it is often said that a single Queen cell in the middle of a frame is indicative of supercedure and multiple Queen cells at the tops and bottoms of frames is an indication of swarming.
Its a reasonable indication but its not totally reliable.
In your case the bees created queen cells some weeks ago and have done so again after the cells were broken down. If a colony wants to swarm, breaking down queen cells might buy you time but cannot be relied on to stop the swarming impulse. In my opinion, breaking down queen cells should be followed by measures to stop swarming eg doing an artificial swarm.
If your hive wants to swarm and you have a capped queen cell and the old Queen is present, then swarming is imminent, in the next day or two if the weather is good.
I would consider doing a Pagden split now ie Old queen and worker bees in hive on original position and everything else, including the capped queen cell a few meters away. You should end up with two colonies,without loss of bees. You can re-unite later keeping the best queen, and they will be in good strength for winter.
The capped cell is at the bottom of a frame, which is what made me think swarm, but there is only one, there were a few others that either were never used or have been destroyed…or hatched if the queen I see is infact a virgin queen, but I don’t think I could have missed that whole process.
There has been no eggs or larvae at the last two inspections. And currently there is no capped brood to speak of. I think I will try the Pagden split, I am just concerned that the current queen does not seem to be laying at all.
I didn’t get any pics.
The bees know what they are doing. Sounds like the queen has died at some point in the past and the bees have replaced her. In that time, they’ve filled in the brood cells with honey. But you have now put a super on, so space shouldn’t be an issue.
If you have access to a second hive. I would swap out some brood frames with brood in all stages to assist with the momentary loss of population. It will also give space for the queen to lay when she is ready.
How strong is the population of bees? I’m hesitant to call an intent to swarm, especially if there’s no active laying queen.
Reading your response ive realised that you can’t be sure if the queen you spotted was the old queen or a new queen. This is one of the reasons why its a good idea to mark your queens. Mature queens are usually bigger than young queens though they usually get slimmed down in preparation for swarming.
So, another possibility is that your hive has already swarmed weeks ago, around the time you first noticed the queen cells, and the queen you spotted now is the replacement that is staying in the hive. At this time she may already have mated and could start laying soon.
The capped queen cell could be a relict from the earlier swarming event, bees sometimes reseal one, or it might have a hole in the side where the pupa inside was killed. Are you positive that it wasnt there before?
Also it doesnt really make sense that you have no capped worker brood but still have a live capped queen cell as worker brood takes 5 days longer to emerge than queens do.