Friday 23rd of June 2017

Q. I think my hive is queenless...

A.  No eggs, no larvae does not necessarily mean you are queenless.  Here is a simple method to help you know for sure... Shake the bees off of a frame of uncapped brood (eggs and young larvae) from a queen-right colony, being careful not to transfer the queen from that hive. Mark that frame with a magic marker.  Remove a frame from the center of the brood chamber of the "suspect " colony and replace it with your marked frame.

Wait 3 days, and then check that frame in the “queenless” colony to see if they have started queen cells. If queen cells are present, your hive was indeed queenless.  If NO queen cells have been produced, then your hive already has a queen most likely a virgin, or she may be mated but not yet laying.  At any rate they will not accept a new one without finding and removing her.

This process has a number of other advantages if you ARE queenless:  The presence of the pheromone of the open brood will delay the onset of laying workers by inhibiting the development of worker bee's ovaries which eventually occurs in the absence of a queen and open brood.  It will also keep the colony from dwindling as the brood frame develops and emerges, giving you an opportunity to assess the performance of that queen when she begins laying and determine if you will replace her.

Having said that, be aware that swarms will occur for primarily 2 reasons:  Inadequate swarm control management, or because the original stock was genetically "swarmy" stock in the first place.  It is also significant to realize that open-mating of a virgin requires a complex set of conditions that will insure a well-mated queen:  a heavy saturation of good drones in the area; as well as several days of perfect mating weather during her brief mating window.  Taking these things into consideration it  is our experience that queens produced in this way, (as well as any queens captured with a swarm of unknown origin), are a gamble, and should be replaced by a queen that has been specifically bred for disease resistance.