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Suddenly queenless - how can it happen?

I am hoping some experienced beekeeper forum members can give some reasons on why a colony can suddenly be queenless. Apart from us rolling her during an inspection or her leaving with a swarm.
I had some concerns during our mild winters only to find the queen reduced laying to a small brood nest. But heard from others they lost their queens.
How can a queen just disappear when the colony looks after her so well?
If there was no swarming, if the queen died, the colony would make a new one?
I just wonder how one would know the colony is queenless if you can’t inspect over winter.
I’ve seen a few queenless nucs or failed introduced queens, but I wonder how common it is that a good functioning colony suddenly is
I mean, a queenless colony could turn into a laying workers colony in a few weeks. How would I know if it’s too cold to inspect?
I heard a queenless colony once and I knew, it was a mourning sound.
But what can make a colony irreversibly queenless?

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Maybe the bees killed her? Maybe something else got into the hive and killed the queen? I wish I knew as I’m trying to build up a hive.

The bees can ball a queen during an inspection, unbeknown to us. They make a new one, she fails to get mated.

For some other reason the queen dies, they make a new one, same thing, she fails to get mated.

There are several reasons why a queen can fail to get mated. A bird for example. Inclement weather, another example.


I wish I knew- I have had it happen quite a few times now. One hive I had swarmed- the queens left behnd failed- and for a whole season I periodically gave it frames of eggs- it made queens- and they failed. Another hive I had the queen failed- I replaced her with a purchased queen- they accepted her- she laid beutifully, lived through winter- then 4 months later I found her outside the hive wothout her wings wandering around on the ground! Gave that hive a frame of brood a month later as they had no eggs, and they dutifully made another queen… That’s the hive that now seems like maybe it’s gone queenless again during our winter. Anecdotally I heard that queen deaths have been higher than normal over recent years- I have no idea if that’s a fact or no.

I wish bees had evolved to keep a back up queen on hand- that seems sensible to me. But I guess nature knows best.

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Reason #124,231 why regular inspections are important:

She gets eaten by a bird or another insect during her mating flight.

During her battle with another virgin queen in the hive, they both get wounded to the point neither one can perform their duties.

Ok, my question was relating to a functioning colony during the season, and is hypothetical.
How likely is it that we lose a well functioning queen over winter in the subtropics? No varroa here.
I did not ask about virgin queens. I’m aware of the dangers a virgin faces.
I would really like to know if a colony that is not being inspected due to cold weather, can just lose their well mated and proven queen?
I would put it it into the rather unlikely basket, but wonder what the experienced would say.

It has happened to me every year so far with one or three hives:
I either lose a queen or they aren’t viable coming out of winter and the hive doesn’t build up.


I don’t recall losing well mated queens during winter. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. The beauty of coming into spring is that we get opportunities to rebuild any weak or queenless hives. I focus more on the opportunity to do that, rather than worry about what caused a well mated queen to no longer exist.

I used to smile to myself, when I saw folks putting names to queens. It’s best not to get emotionally attached to them.

We’re doing pretty good if we lose a queen during winter, considering in the U.S. they lose a fair %age of colonies.


No doubt we are still the lucky country @JeffH. Once varroa invades our island, things will change drastically.
I wonder if it’s only varroa that is responsible for those tremendous colony losses overseas. But then, there are still big commercial apiaries over there.
I do name my queens, after female family members and friends. They are the ones who keep enquiring about ‘their’ colony. They never find out when their queen gets superseded or replaced. The queen names are more attached to the hives. Except Queen Ginger, a Cordovan. She flew off when I released her into another Nuc.

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