Seemingly Queenless Hive- End of Autumn what to do? Advice please?

OK- so I had another thread about how my long hive was seemingly queenless:

Basically I inspected, there was no visible brood at all and I assumed the hive was queenless. I added a frame of brood from another hive and inspected again after 4 days. There was no sign of any brood on any frames except the one I added- and the bees had not built any queen cells.

The hive is full of bees- every frame is covered. Having assumed it was queenless I became confused when I heard about queens going off the lay for periods- and then further confused when I realized there may be a virgin queen in the hive. My gut tells me it’s queenless- but my brain informs me things may not be so simple. It seems certain that no egg has been laid in the hive for approximately 25 days at least…

Not being sure I would be able to find enough frames of brood from other hives over winter to give this hive I have panicked and looked to buy a queen. I found one today from NSW (Italian) at a good price- one of the last queens of the year. It is on the way in the mail hopefully this afternoon.

Given that I am not sure of the queen status of my hive my plan is to place the queen cage on the top bars and observe how the bees react to her. I guess if they react very well and start to fan their wings and feed her- I can assume they want her and are queenless?

However if they are not so welcoming- I am not sure what it will mean, and what I should do? At what point should I simply assume the hive IS queenless and requeen it?

If there was a new queen in the hive that hasn’t yet mated and/or started to lay- what would happen if I released the mated queen into the hive? Would they battle it out? Or would the introduced queen simply be killed by the hive?

I guess I’d like to know what others would do in my situation?

If they are not happy to see her, they will bite the queen cage and try to ball her. I would not introduce her at that point.

Either could happen, but often the hive will attack the new queen before the old queen finds her.

As you have several hives, I would have waited until next season. If the hive died out over winter, it would be easy enough to repopulate it from a split next spring. If it was just that the queen is a runner, and I missed her, then the hive should be fine over winter. :blush:

1 Like

If they don’t accept her could you find enough frames to put her in a nuc? Might need some extra care over winter for all the hives but maybe a good outcome?



I couldn’t let the hive die out if I could help it. It’s my first prototype long hive and I want to field test it next season with as good and fast a start as I can manage in spring- plus at the moment it is a pretty large colony with a lot of honey, pollen, and bees on nice newly built out frames.

It can’t be as simple as the queen being a runner- I have looked for her- but the frames are heavily covered in bees and it would be easy to miss her- it’s not so much that I couldn’t find her as that I can’t see any evidence of any brood having been laid for over 24 days- either she isn’t there, she is a virgin, or she is off the lay for some reason. By the time I find out what is going on it may be too late in the year to do much about it.

@AdamMaskew I have another hive with an 8 frame brood box- it has had persistent chalkbrood through spring, summer and now autumn- and despite a lot of bees and a lot of activity it didn’t produce much honey- never filling the hybrid flow super I gave it back in spring- and if I don’t end up using the queen I have bought in the long hive- I was thinking I may break that hive down to two nucleus hives- one with the old queen and one with the new. My thinking is the bees may be able to better deal with the chalkbrood if they are tighter packed into Nuc hives- and that way I will come into spring with two Nucs- if the old queen is still chalkbrood-ish- then I could recombine them into one hive with the new queen?


You know the “old timers” used to unite colonies without removing a queen leaving it for the bees to sort out. I know people who still do it. You could take a chance? I’d go with @Dawn_SD suggestion and leave them to it

1 Like

Hello there Dee,

as I understand it- the most likely reason my hive has no brood at all is because it is queenless. I don’t understand why I wouldn’t try and requeen it if I could? I managed to get this new queen for a very reasonable price- and it comes from a reputable breeder. It is interesting for me to try out some new genetics- and I don’t mind the expense of the queen.

Where I am winters are mild- no frost, snow etc- and a lot of sunny days where the bees are out and foraging.

The only real thing that is confusing me is the possibility I do actually have a queen in that hive already- and for some reason she has not laid for over 25 days (off the lay, virgin, or mated but not yet laying?) I don’t see why she wouldn’t be laying by now (unless the hive superceded)- all my other hives still have brood in them and most days are very sunny with lots of pollen coming in.

I have read that a queenless hive will stop taking pollen in: yet my seemingly queenless hive is still bringing in pollen- is that a strong indication there is a queen or just a tentative sign?

Hi Jack, I have read that a good cure for chalk brood is to requeen the hive. If the colony doesn’t like the new queen, it might be a good opportunity to requeen the hive that contains chalk brood.

I stand by my earlier suggestion of giving that colony a frame of brood every few weeks. That’s what I would do. As long as your other colonies are kept nice & snug, you should be able to remove a frame of brood on a warm sunny day.

Last year I populated my observation hive at the start of winter with only one frame of brood, bees & a queen. They not only survived the winter, but expended as well. All the observation hive’s sides are is a thin piece of perspex covered with a piece of 7mil ply. Way thinner than the sides of a standard hoop pine super.

1 Like

That is my plan if I don’t use the queen in the long hive- I will split the chalkbrood hive into two nucleus- one with the old queen and one with the new. If after winter the old chalkbrood queen is still no good- I will combine the two into one colony? I think I read somewhere that colonies can deal with chalkbrood better if they are compacted down to a nuc.

But I would be interested as to what you think is happening in my long hive: do you think it is most likely queenless? Would you assume a hive is queenless if there was no sign of brood at all over 25 days in late Autumn?

In relation to your first paragraph: At the end of winter, I would not combine colonies. It’s the ideal time to make more colonies, being that you’re nearing the start of spring.

It is difficult to tell if a colony is absolutely queenless without a thorough time consuming inspection. I always take the easy option of adding a frame of brood that contains fertile eggs or very young larvae. Then take a look at that frame in a weeks time. If I’m still not sure, I’ll add another frame. Then take another look in another weeks time. It is that easy. Just keep on doing that until you see positive signs that you have a queen or you have a queen in the making.

You can’t do any harm whatsoever by doing that. The donor hives will soldier on while the receiving hive is getting a good boost in population with every frame of brood that you add.

The one thing I would not do during the colder months is replace the frames of brood with foundation. I’d replace them with frames of fully drawn comb. I’d place them on the outside.

PS. In selecting a frame of brood from a donor hive during the colder months: It’s worth remembering that the bees are constricting the brood. You wouldn’t want to take a frame from the middle of the brood that contains the most brood. You might consider taking the frame at the extreme outside, the first frame from either side that contains brood. The frame may only be 1/4 brood, but as long as it has some fertile eggs or young larvae, that’s all you need to transfer if you are concerned about weakening the donor hive too much.


My apologies.
If you have clement weather all year then it makes sense to re-queen.
Like Jeff says, try a test frame. One frame with eggs or very young larvae. If they have no queen then they will make queen cells but not always on the first frame, you will have to add another.
Let us know what you find…please

Pollen income can be a good sign, particularly if you are waiting for a evidence of a new queen in a nuc, say but I have seen a colony with no queen fill almost an entire brood box with pollen. Bees are opportunists, they will forage what is available

Ooops, sorry
I see you have done a test frame already.
I just re-read your post and you don’t have the brood frames available to try more.

Then…you just have to go look for her. It sounds like she might be there


The new queen is due in tomorrow’s mail. Unfortunately we have a little spell of drizzle and cold weather- I’ll have to figure a warm hive to home her ASAP. I’ll have another careful look for the old queen in the long hive.

One thing I can do which I haven’t mentioned- is I can pretty easily split the long hive into two hives with my divider board… I can make a tiny 3 frame NUc hive at one end… I could start the new queen in there with a brood frame, honey and foundation frane- and if the main hive queen never reappears i could merge them…?

Argh- too many options.

1 Like

Love that idea. :wink:

Me too but use a drawn frame not foundation. Not enough bees to draw a whole frame by the time the queen gets going.
Shake in two or three frames worth of nurse bees as well as your frame of emerging brood and it should work nicely.

1 Like

Seconded, and even use 4 frames rather than 3 - better chance of making it through the winter. I would want 2 frames of brood, one of honey/pollen and 1 drawn frame for them to play with. :wink:

Of course, you don’t have brood, so just go with one or one and a half pollen/honey and 2 drawn. :blush:

There’s brood in the long hive yes?

No- that’s the problem hive. There is just one frame with brood on it which is the one I added last week: this is what it looks like:

There is room at the end opposite the flow frames to split the hive. I have a divider board and can open a small entrance. Even if it’s only three frames I’d hope it would be cosy having the larger hive next door and an insulated roof.


OK- my queen bee just arrived in the mail! I heard her buzzing inside the package. I haven’t opened it yet. What should I do fist off @JeffH @Dawn_SD @Michael_Bush @Anyone?? ? Offer her a drop of water? How long can I leave her in her little cage before I attempt to introduce her to my hive? Unfortunately today is quite cool and overcast- and it looks like it might rain later. It is quite cool in my house today- maybe 16 C- will she be OK at that temp- and for how long?

Whilst I have made these other plans of what to do if the seemingly queenless hive doesn’t take her- now she is here I remember that really that’s the hive that I want her to go in. So I still think introducing her to that hive is the main game. At this stage my immediate plan is to inspect that hive again and double check to see if I can see any signs of a queen. The hive of brood I introduced will still have some capped brood on it- should I just place her cage between that frame and one near it and hope that the bees accept her?

Hi Jack, I would stick to the plan of seeing whether the bees are accepting of her or not before placing the cage in between the frames. I guess if the bees are trying to ball her, that means the hive must have a queen. If that’s the case, you could use her to requeen the hive with chalk brood.

I’m sure she will be ok for a couple of days. If you give her water, be careful you don’t use too much. That will dilute the candy. I think that was one of the instructions I was given many years ago. Keep her in a warm shaded spot until you’re ready to use her.

1 Like

I just rang a local beek and he pretty much said the same thing: place her on top of the bars and watch how they react. If they seem happy then put the cage between the bars and hope for the best: if not take her away- they are likely queenright.

Another beek suggested I just put her in and let the bees figure it out- worst case scenario she is killed and I lose $35.

I hope they just love her and take her in.

One thing: she is Italian and they are not- I suppose that doesn’t matter?

Well: @JeffH It’s done! for better or for worse. I inspected every frame: still absolutely no evidence of a queen. No brood at all except on the frame I added a week ago which is now all capped brood (quite a lot). In fact- the amount of capped brood suggests to me there were eggs on that frame when I put it in- so I wonder why the bees didn’t try and make a queen cell? Looked for the queen on every frame- didn’t see her- though the frames were heavily covered in bees…

I placed the new queen on the frames- I couldn’t detect any high level aggression- I left it there for 5 minutes- bees were definitely interested didn’t see any trying to sting the cage- or bite it as such- I saw some poke their proboscis in to the cage: I’m hoping that’s a good sign? Feeding her?

After 5 minutes I decided: what the heck- and I placed the cage between the one frame of brood and another comb at the top of the bars with the candy plug pointing down. I guess I have to check it in a few days to see if they managed to free her? Or is it best to leave them alone for a spell?

I made two little movies of the introduction-what do you think? Do they like her?

1 Like