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Queenless in Autumn


I did a brood inspection this week after noticing a reduction in bee numbers. I only found capped brood, so guess I have been queenless for about 2 weeks. Not sure what happened to the queen, she is only 5 months old and was created by the hive after swarming in November. I was wondering what are my chances of the hive creating a new queen in Autumn? (North Coast NSW, Australia). I spotted one empty queen cell and no drone cells. Not sure if anyone would have queens to supply this time of year. Very sad, she made lovely offspring.


I feel your pain. Very sad, especially heading into winter. Good luck.


As in a hatched cell, or an empty cup? Lack of drones doesn’t matter, it is unlikely that she would choose to mate with drones from her own hive.


Dawn, thanks for replying, I think empty cup, how do I tell the difference?


If it is shallow, say 1cm or less, it is a cup and was likely never inhabited. If it is more like 2 to 2.5cm with an outside like a peanut shell, it may be a hatched queen. If so, you may not see new eggs for 3-4 weeks. There is quite a good article here about swarm prevention, but it also describes the various queen cups and cells:

Really keeping my fingers crossed that you have a new queen in there. If you don’t and there are only capped brood, they will not be able to make one. I don’t know what your autumns are like, but maybe @JeffH can advise. I would think that if you don’t see young brood in the next week or two, you need preferably a new mated queen. The other option would be a frame of very young brood and eggs from a beekeeper near you - the hive could certainly make a new queen, but I am not sure how long the mating season extends in you part of the world. Even here in sunny warm San Diego, it only really starts in February - very late winter. That would likely be too late for your hive.

So let’s hope for the best, that they already made a queen - a description or photo of that queen cell would help. :blush:


The cell looks like an emergency queen cell after looking at the article (thanks!). Unfortunately I did not get a photo as I did the inspection by myself and forgot all about taking pics!
I will check for new brood in about 1.5 weeks, if there are none I will see if I can get a mated queen, I know of a supplier who posts them out, if he has any. It is still quite warm and sunny here but I am not sure if it is still mating season.
Thanks for your advice @Dawn_SD, I will let you know how I go.


Was there any larva in the cells? I know you mentioned capped brood only but have a good look into the cells for larva and eggs. It’s a bit warmer where you are but it’s unlikely there is enough drones around for a virgin Queen to mate with and as far as I am aware there are no caged Queens available. The only real alternative is to ask around for anyone selling established hives and combine this with your colony, otherwise leave them as they are over winter and start again in the spring… Not a great time of the year…sorry


Thanks @Rodderick, absolutely no larva unfortunately. Combining with an established hive is a good idea, worth considering if there are no eggs or larva when I inspect next weekend. I figured the lack of drones at this time of year would be the problem. Looking forward to spring, when I’m getting a second hive :blush::honeybee:


Hi Julie, I don’t think it’s too late to get your bees to make a new queen if you can get a hold of a frame of brood with young larvae. It’s certainly worth a try.

I’m not all that far north of you at Buderim. I split a hive yesterday after removing the queen, one frame of brood & bees for my observation hive so I could do a talk on bees this morning. The remaining hive got split in two. I’m hoping they’ll both make new queens.

I’m sure there’s plenty of drones around. The bees don’t get rid of them in our climate, not like they do in much colder climates.


Hi Jules,

When we get into fall (NE USA), queens can pretty much stop laying until mid-late winter when they start up in preparation for Spring.


Hi all, thanks for your advice, the good news is that I have lots of brood :smile: I had noticed a marked increase in the bee population in the past week, so I think that when I noticed the decrease in bee population it was the lull between the old queen’s and new queen’s brood being born. I must have missed the eggs/larve, which I can see lots of today. Or the queen went on a mini holiday?? I did not spot the queen though. I took some pics but they are all blurry, I blame my sticky gloved fingers! Next time I will get a friend to take the photos (as husband wont :disappointed:). @JeffH, good luck with your split, I am planning on splitting off to a friend early spring or when my hive is full. Its great living in the sub-tropics!