The Queen is dead - Long live the Queen

I bought 2 queens from a bee supplier recently for 2 new splits I’ve started. When i viewed the queens in their cage I was surprised at how small they were. I’m pretty new to this but to me they looked like virgin queens as they were only slightly larger then the attendants.

I added the queens to the hives and then checked back in 3 days. They hadn’t been released yet so I released them myself.

I’ve now inspected the hives approx 2 weeks after initial install. I located the queen in one hive and it was considerably larger, I’m guessing if I was sold a virgin queen it’s then done its mating flights and its ready to lay. I couldnt find any eggs or larvae but its possible I’ve missed it.

In the second hive - same again - queen was now considerably larger. Couldn’t find any eggs - but did find 4-5 finished queen cells. Have they rejected their queen? I put the queen in a queen clip and laid it on top of the frames and they didnt seem to be paying her too much attention. I’m not sure about removing the queen cells without evidence that the queen is laying.

What might be the best approach here?

Hi Matt, I’m wondering if the colony is preparing to swarm.
Obviously the colony hasn’t rejected the queen, otherwise you wouldn’t find her alive.
One thing you could do is split that split with the queen in one portion, & the queen cells in the other portion.
It would be my understanding that the purchased queens would be mated & laying fertile eggs.
The other thing is that queens that are not laying eggs will look smaller than a queen that is full on laying eggs, on account of the food she’s fed, coupled with the eggs developing in her abdomen.

Hi Jeff.

The colony with the queen cells (with the installed queen) has covered 3 frames in a 10 frame brood box. Would they still swarm with so much room to grow?

I didnt realise if they reject the queen they kill her - that is good to know. The queens were sold as mated queens - but the size difference as you describe it makes sense.

I will do as suggested - i’ll make another split and move the frame with the queen cells to the new split.

It was really windy here today in Sydney today so I have delayed - but looks calm tomorrow morning. Hopefully im not too late!!

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I’m just thinking…Had they started making emergency queens before you installed the queen? I’m wondering, if so, they may have decided to keep building them, with the intention (a change of plan) to swarm with the new queen. I’m only guessing.

I have had split colonies swarm with the first virgin queen to emerge. That’s why I reduce them down to about 2 frames of bees, with one frame of brood that contains the queen cells, especially at home here while I don’t want to upset the neighbors.

If I have 4 or 5 frames of bees in a 10 frame brood box, there’s a good chance that they’ll swarm with the first virgin to emerge.

I don’t buy queens. I let my bees make new queens with progeny from good natured, hard working colonies. I get rid of the queens in cranky colonies, so that their drones wont get a chance to mate, & pass on the cranky genes.

This makes an excellent case for better record keeping. Im still working this stuff out. I’m going to number every hive and make better notes. I believe this hive was started from a few frames of bias and 1 frame of capped honey. 3 frames max. There were a few days before I could get the queen installed and I don’t recall checking the hive before adding the queen cage so it’s possible queen cells were being drawn out already.

Lesson learned. :slight_smile:

Noted thank you.

I’ve started adding notes to hives and grading their temperament. “A” grade calm will be the hives I will try and take splits from. Is that the best way to propegate better temperament?

In that case, I would destroy them. The bees will then have to accept your new queen.

I have done a lot of re-queening. The most important thing is to check for queen cells very carefully on the day of placing the new queen in the colony. Even to the extent of shaking all of the bees off each frame - they are VERY good at clustering over the cells and hiding them! If I see any loaded queen cells, I destroy them. This is the only situation (re-queening) where I would destroy them rather than consider a split.

If you don’t destroy them, there is a reasonable chance that the colony will prefer their own queen to the one you chose. In your case, that may not matter too much. In my case, it matters a lot with africanized bees in my region! :wink:


Hi Matt, yes “A” grade calm is the best hives to make queens from, coupled with good producers.

I split all the colonies that need to be split, in order to avoid swarming, however in some cases I’m selective as to which brood frames I allow them to make queens from.

If a colony is strong enough to need splitting, & I’m able to do so without any aggression, I’ll let that split make their own queen.

If I need to add a frame of brood to a colony because it is queenless, or it has a dud queen, then I’m selective as to which colony I take that brood from. I currently have a couple of resource hives (one from @cathiemac ) that tick all the right boxes. I take brood from them, in preference to adding a honey super to them.


Yes that does raise the stakes for sure!

Thanks Jeff that makes a lot of sense.

Well I got to the hive today. As I suspected I was a day too late. All of the queen cells had either emerged or have been destroyed. So i have an interesting problem - i now have at least two Queens in the one hive.

I’m guessing that if I have to do something here I have a pretty small window of time to do it.

Should I remove the new vrigin queen?
Are they likely to swarm now?
Should I let them sort it out?

I think I would split the colony in two, while making sure that the purchased queen is in one by herself. It would be a shame to lose that queen you paid good money for. On top of that, you get the opportunity to acquire another mated queen, provided the new queen gets successfully mated.

Thanks Jeff - yes I did end up doing just that after some research and reading. I was concerned my purchased queen might be despatched or the hive might swarm. I was finally able to locate the elusive virgin queen and put her in a clip. I then transferred the virgin queen to the new split I had ready with a frame of honey and a small pollen patty.

I plavced the queen in the queen clip with some attendants between the frames as I was not wanting to put her straight in with a new split. I was planning on releasing her after a day or two. Is that the correct approach here?

I’m not sure if that approach was necessary, on account that going by the photo you posted, the queens didn’t appear to be under threat. I would have split that colony.

By placing the queen in a different colony, I think you’ve done the right thing in using the queen clip. You just have to decide now when it’ll be safe to let her out.

I think if the colony had been stronger I would have split it but the bees were only covering 3 frames - and one of them was honey/nectar so didnt want to end up with two weak hives. Hopefully it works out. I’ll have 9 hives in total after starting with a package only 2 seasons ago (this is our third season) using your technique. Definitely happy with the progress!

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Well done Matt. I think you did the right thing, however always bare in mind that a weak colony can easily be boosted with nurse bees, emerging brood, or even by swapping hive positions.

I actually used one full frame of sealed brood to boost 2 separate weak colonies. I put it in one colony until roughly half the bees emerged, then I placed it in the second hive for the remainder to emerge.

Half a frame’s worth of nurse bees wont turn a weak colony into a thriving colony, however it does make the difference as to whether the colony survives or not. Then it can be further boosted with more resources going forward.


Thanks for the help Jeff much appreciated. My splits have been much more successful since I started transferring bias or capped brood frames when required. Will check the new hive when we return from holidays in 2 weeks and see how it turned out.

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