They Killed Their Queens (Continued)

Here’s a brief recap of the saga known as They Killed Their Queens: Mated queens (in standard cages with candy plugs) were added to three splits about 25 days ago which were checked five days later (July 18th) and the following was found:

Split #1: The new queen DEAD inside her opened cage and several capped supersedure cells. Today (18 days later): A naturally mated queen, because Life Finds a Way. Happy Ending #1, or as good at it gets anyway.

Split #2: The new queen alive and one supersedure cell full of royal jelly. Five days later: Fresh eggs and supersedure cell gone. Happy Ending #2.

Fresh eggs. Signs of a mated queen doing alright. (July 23, 2015.)

Fresh eggs. Signs of a mated queen doing alright. (Click image to enlarge.) (July 23, 2015.)

Split #3: The new queen M.I.A. (possibly dead) and several capped supersedure cells. Today (18 days later): One capped supersedure cell remaining. Two open supersedure cells. No fresh brood. No sign of a queen. Happy Ending status: to be determined.

A supersedure queen cell ready blow. (August 5, 2015.)

A supersedure queen cell ready blow. (August 5, 2015.)

Clearly, the mated queen was killed in Split #3 as well. If they’re still holding on to a supersedure cell, they might not have a viable queen yet. Unlike Split #1 that naturally requeened and began bringing in pollen, I don’t see these bees bringing in pollen. And when I pulled a few frames, the bees just sat there on the frames doing nothing. That’s strange. I think they’ve been queenless for too long and they’re losing their sense of purpose. I’ve seen the same type of thing happen to wintering colonies. The bees become listless.

If the queen in the supersedure cell emerges soon, the colony might have a chance. But as is the case with five of my six coloines, they will need a significant injection of brood frames to stay alive, and I have only one colony that’s large enough to maybe pull some brood from.

I will have to perform a monumental juggling act over the next two or three weeks if I can’t get any brood frames from my fellow beekeepers.

3 thoughts on “They Killed Their Queens (Continued)

  1. Sounds tricky. Wishing you luck. I’ve just had three drone laying queens in a row in one hive, so know how frustrating queen problems can be!

  2. Here are two videos that demonstrate how a queenless colony behaves when it’s ready to accept a queen and when it’s not. If the bees aren’t ready to accept the queen, you’ve got problems and you might want to pay close attention to this one.

    Here’s the video that shows how the bees behave when they’re NOT ready to accept a new queen:

    This usually happens when they already have a queen or when they have queens cells (swarm or supersedure cells) in the hive — which is as good as having a queen for them. The bees will cling to the queen cage and will not budge because they see the queen as a threat that needs to be eliminated immediately. They will not let go until the queen is dead.

    Here’s the video that shows how the same bees behave after all the queen cells have been removed from the same hive and they’re ready to accept the new queen:

    The bees walk around the queen cage and actually try to FEED the queen. They’re not holding onto the screen with all their might. They are easy to brush away.

    So to recap, if the bees hold tight to the queen cage and aren’t easy to push aside, there’s a good chance you’ve got queen cells in the hive (or a laying worker, but that’s another story). Those queen cells have to go before they will accept a new queen. If the bees are easy to brush off the queen cage, the colony is truly queenless and will likely accept the new queen.

    This is one of those things that’s really good to know that never came up in any of the bee books I read or in any conversations I had with other beekeepers. I learned it the hard way.

    I’d put it as #1 on my list of things to know for 2nd or 3rd year beekeepers who will likely have to install a mated queen under a variety of circumstances that usually happen by year three.

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