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Three unmated queens, what to do?

My first and only hive swarmed four times in the past couple weeks and I caught the second and third swarm. The fourth has been 30-feet up in a tree for several days in the rain and hail, amazing! I found and released the last remaining queen cell in the primary hive two days ago and they haven’t since absconded. So now I have three hives (a triple-deep, a single deep and a nuc box) with varying numbers of bees and each with an unmated queen.

My questions: What should I be doing in the next few weeks/months to monitor the queens’ status? How long should I wait before checking for evidence of mated queens? Should I be feeding them honey/pollen frames (local bee people say there’s plenty to forage on so food shouldn’t be an issue)? And how old do my children have to be before I can have them take care of the bees for me? :wink:

Ideally I’d end up with two hives but one or three would certainly be better than zero! Thanks everyone!

You should be typing on this forum and not opening the hive for at least 2 weeks :grin:

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Hi Ian, firstly if SHB is in your area, I’d recommend removing any frames that contain brood or pollen that don’t have a good covering of worker bees on them.

I would wait a month before looking in on the bees for evidence that the queen has mated successfully. It will be good if you have a gap on one side of each super so you can move the frames across. Check on the frame in the middle of the bee mass. A newly mated queen can be sluggish at the start, she may not have laid on the first frame you check. You should see a clear pattern on the frames. Honey at the top with a half football curve with pollen at the edges & a clear area of empty cells the bees have left for the queen to lay eggs in.

Take the advice of your local beekeepers in relation to feeding. However you’ll be able to see if your bees are bringing much in. A simple test will confirm that. Put a saucer with some sugar water or honey in it out the back. See how quickly the bees find it. If it takes ages for the bees to find it, that will tell you that they are bringing lots in. Anyway they probably wouldn’t have swarmed during a dearth.

I think 3 or 4, just kidding.

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Usually a new queen will be laying within two weeks. Occasionally it takes three weeks. After that she will be a drone layer.

It turns out that all three queens were laying two weeks later! Although the smallest swarm absconded because of too many ants and too few bees to defend the hive (i think).

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