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Queenless Colony

Queenless Colony

Today’s inspection of Susanne’s hive showed (scroll down for photos)

  1. there is no sign of fresh brood or old brood
  2. the colony looks much smaller than it was
  3. a new queen is about to hatch from an older capped queen cell

What can that mean? There are several possibilities:

  • The colony has swarmed with the old queen. Maybe it’s even one of the swarms we’ve caught.
  • Or the old queen has died. (But then – why are there so much less bees?)
  • The new queen will hatch within the next 8 days (it seems to be an already older cell to judge by the colour).

What should be done once a new queen emerges?

  • ” Once a new queen has emerged she will take 2-4 days to start on her mating flights, assuming the weather is favourable. This is the time to NOT mess around with the hive unless absolutely essential. If you really must open the hive (and I find it is difficult to think of a sensible reason) it should be outside business (mating) hours, 9.00am-18.00, and certainly not when drones are on the wing. After mating, which may take several days, depending on the weather, the queen needs time to set up her sperm bank and commence egg production. The minimum time from emergence to commencement of egg laying is about 10 days but it is normally not less than a fortnight (14 days).
  • If at 14 days after emergence there is not a laying queen, don’t panic! What is the demeanour of the colony? Does it seem settled and calm? Does it have arcs of cells, cleaned out and shiny ready for a queen to lay? These are promising, but not infallible, signs.
  • No laying arcs, agitated bees and `roaring` – a very loud buzz caused by many bees fanning – are a bad signs.
  • If there is no laying queen, but the signs are good, give them a bit longer. Wait 5-7 days and take another look. If there is still no laying queen after 3 weeks all may not be lost but, nevertheless, it is time to take action. The action you need to take is to obtain a test frame of brood – which must include some eggs – from other colony. If you cannot provide this from your own colonies you will need help from another beekeeper. Remove a frame from the colony whose queen status is in doubt (shaking off the bees) and place the test frame in the centre of the brood box. Mark it with a drawing pin so that you can easily recognise it later. If the colony is genuinely queenless the bees will immediately start queen cells on the test frame and in 3-4 days you need to look again to see if this has happened. If no queen cells are produced then the colony thinks it has got a queen and the brood on the test frame will be raised as its own and join the colony. If queen cells are found then you are back at the beginning of the process and it will be about another 13-16 days (from when you put the frame in) before a new queen is hatched.
    (to read more, go here: Welsh Beekeepers Association)

mostly broodless cells, some older capped broodcells, nectar is present

mostly broodless cells, some older capped broodcells, nectar is present


capped queen cell

capped queen cell


not as many bees as before

not as many bees as before


yellow coloured queen cell

yellow coloured queen cell

some capped honey, otherwise empty broodcells

some capped honey, otherwise empty broodcells