I checked one of my hives today that seems to have slow activity to see what the problem was. I noticed were not that many bees in this hive and couldn’t find the queen anywhere (I also had an experienced beekeeper with me looking). I saw that they were desperately trying to produce a new one. It was very interesting. I wonder what could’ve happened to that queen. As I will need to buy another one asap, what happens when one of those new queens emerge? I assume they just battle it out. Has anyone experienced the mysterious loss of their queen?
If they are making a new queen and the hive is health, would it not be best wait 2 weeks and see what the new queen is like?
Hi Becky, very good point, did you see any sign of brood at all e.g. eggs, larvae or capped cells? Somehow she may have become injured, sick and died. If the new queen being made had hatched and you had already inserted a bought queen then one or both may have been stung to death and you’re back to where you were. If the newly hatched queen was left to her own devices and there were no drones or not enough drones in your area then your hive may fail from an infertile queen and you are back to where you were. Its good to play out these scenarios, its sort of like a game of chess.
That’s what I thought at first, but then a fellow beekeeper said that I should still buy one. I really didn’t understand the logic, but he’s more experienced than I am, so I just deferred to his advice.
Hi Rodderick…yes, I did see a number of capped cells. The number of bees in this queenless hive is maybe 10% of that compared to the other hive that’s doing well. I hardly see any drones entering or exiting the hive. The majority of bees were surrounding the cells. I wonder if this is going to be an issue for her to mate as you pointed out. Another thought, do you think that most of the bees in this weak hive just jumped ship to join the other hive as it had a queen?
As I understand it the reason queens mate with 10-15 drones is so that they can exclude any of their own drones (those with the same genetics) sperm and still have plenty from outside hives, so you don’t need to worry about how many drones are in your weak hive as long as you have stronger hives with drones nearby to mate your new queen
Hey Becky, your bees joining another stronger hive can happen, but mostly likely natural attrition has meant that they have died and are not being replaced. Your best option is to get a new queen in there as soon as you can. As long as you have drawn comb for the new queen to lay in straight away your new bees will begin to emerge in 3 weeks time. So allowing for delivery of your queen, the queen to emerge from her cage and then new bees to hatch, it could take 6 - 8 before you start to notice a change. If your hive is very weak, then you may need to consider combining them with the other hive using the newspaper method and then ordering a new package or Nuc. Ask your experienced local beekeeper friend for advice on the weak hive.
Good point…now why didn’t I think of that? Duh. I can’t believe I made that stupid comment now.
So you are saying not to wait for the new queen to emerge and just buy one? Ugh, wish this didn’t happen.
I don’t know your area from a beekeeping perspective, if there are no other hives in the area then I would be concerned that your new queen may not be mated properly. From my own experience, if I lose the queen, I buy a new one in. That way I can be guaranteed she has been mated with a lot drones and comes from a good and tested stock. Here they only cost $20-$25 posted. So its not a big deal for piece of mind. If your experienced local beekeeper is OK with you continuing to leave it to the hive hatch to the emergency queen then I am good with that.
I agree…he told me to get things going, just get a new queen. I feel kind of bad the the hatching queens. They won’t live too long with an adult queen in there.
If the hive is too weak (ie could not support a significant loss of worker bees in a swarm) the workers may cull these new queens when they get a nice healthy queen introduced. That or new queen may do it as well. Nature is a cruel mistress…
I should have mentioned that if there are no eggs in this colony, then the bees will NOT be able to raise their own queen. Have a look inside the Queen cells (if they are still uncapped) and see if there is a larva in there. Sometimes a worker may start laying eggs in a queenless colony (thats a whole lot of new problems). So it is doomed regardless, unless you 1. Order in a new queen or 2. Combine it with the healthier colony.
What happens if a worker lays eggs?
I think the easiest thing to do is to get a new queen. If that fails, I’ll just combine the hives and start over with the empty hive.
Have they swarmed out ?
Has the colony been struggling to build up since winter ?
Do you have any bee poop in or around the hive ?
Have they been removing brood and throwing it out ?
Have you seen bees unable to fly around the area ?
If not swarming then it could be a lot of things unfortunately non of them good.
In warm weather bees dont generally dwindle away through natural methods.
If they haven’t swarmed out then do a test for nosema.
This can be done in a few ways
Either collect 30 foragers and crush them in 30ml of water and look at the liquid from the resulting mush under a microscope at 400x. You are looking for rice grain shaped white spores.
Another way is to collect about 10 foragers and pull the sting and last section of their abdomen off, this should pull their gut out with it.
If the colour of their gut is white not brownish colour then you have nosema and the colony is ruined.
If you have other hives then you have the option of shaking some more bees into the weaker colony to give them a boost. This should only be done if they are disease free.
If the colony fails make sure you sterilise all the parts of the hive before using again.
Combining can only be done if you are sure the colony is disease free.
One ruined hive is not helped by another one being infected.
Not enough information to be more help.
Thank you for the info., that is a very interesting take on the situation and good info to know.
In this case, I’m certain it was due to the loss of the queen.
How the queen was lost is the important bit.
You have queen cells in the hive.
How many have you left in there ?
Is there any brood on the frames at all ?
If there are too many queen cells then the few bees that are left could swarm again with one of the newly emerged queens leaving you with nothing.
A guess would be they have swarmed several times already. But not knowing how many bees are left and how big the colony was before it is only a guess.
Have you done many inspections this season ?
Any colony history available ?
If you buy a new queen you must destroy the queen cells in the colony and make sure there isn’t a virgin queen in there. If not your new queen and the money it cost will be gone.
All good questions.I need to do another inspection tomorrow to make sure I remember what I saw correctly. I need some education on why the virgin queen would destroy the new (bought) queen. I would think the older queen would be stronger. Please help me understand the logic?
Well there is always a chance that the new purchase queen will swarm rather then fight for a place in the hive, or that the virgin queen will kill the new queen in a fight. With two possible outcomes leaving you with no return on your investment I’d say it’s just a safer bet to take out the virgin-queen competition if you are going to go to the expense of re-queening.