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Let ‘Em Do Their Thing

I once read where Michael Bush, a big time beekeeper up North, said that he never replaced the queen from a swarm. He didn’t want bees that couldn’t figure out when it was time to supersede their queen and needed him to help them along. I have a ton of respect for Michael Bush and agree with him for sure, but I am not 100% sure that I will never requeen (the Albo hive comes to mind.)

Two queen cells

Am I Going to Get A Siamese Twin?

At any rate, I went into my only hive that came through the Winter with an issue yesterday (the one with a baseball sized brood nest, apparently a failing queen) to see what they were up to. There were definitely very few bees and only a handful of capped brood (I did not see eggs or larvae or queen). Amazingly enough, they had a pair of queen cells, side-by-side! It seemed like the old gal must have had enough left in her to push out two decent eggs and move along.

My paranoid nature has me wondering if these eggs were any good or not. I absolutely believe that the bees will choose a better egg then I would and they will make the most of any situation, but I have to wonder if the failing queen’s best is really any good or not. The hive was in ok shape, with several frames of honey and a fair amount of pollen (they really haven’t had much brood to feed). There may have been 40 capped worker cells, spread all over the place, and an equal number of drone cells. The bottom line is that this hive’s last hope rests in these queen cells. I was hyper vigilant to put them back in the hive carefully so as not to damage them.

As of right now, I only know that I had a pair of capped cells on March 20. If I assume the worst case scenario, those queens might not emerge until March 29. I will probably have to wait until April 1 to check and see. The key is that I absolutely must be ready with either a frame of eggs (from one of my Nucs with proven queens) or another swarm cell or two. Otherwise, this hive could be in real trouble. I may go down this weekend to check on them and simply give them a frame of eggs anyway, just in case. I hate to risk jostling those queen cells, but it’s probably the best course of action. That way, if those queen cells are no good, these bees can go to work on March 26 (with the new eggs) and possibly have a mated queen by the middle of April.

Only time will tell…

2 comments to Let ‘Em Do Their Thing

  • Doug Ladd

    Last year i had a hive do this. a failed queen and making queen cells. i waited and waited and then finally opened them, they were dead and junk.

    Looking at the picture with NO brood around really IMO they too are junk since there is no other viable eggs around or even brood that should still be under capping even at 16 days, so my assumption would be they are trying a last ditch effort with what will liekly be bad eggs, especailly if there are drones, the last thing a hive does is raise drones and only when they are strong, when drones are laid when a hive is weak its probably due to a failign queen and lack of semen…

    I would do a few things.

    1) add a frame of eggs, brood, and bees
    2) add a frame of brood and bees
    3) shake a frame of bees
    4) swap hive locations in the middle of the day with a strong hive and provide a healthy dose of foragers.

    Or chalk it up as a loss and move on, losses happen. Use the drawn comb to boost a split or for honey supers…

  • It has actually been bugging me (the lack of brood around those queen cells), especially since the picture looks me in the face anytime that I look at it. I can’t, for the life of me, remember if more bees were on it (and I blew on them to make the picture easier) or not. There were a lot more bees then this picture shows, but nowhere near the number of a normal hive.

    Your advice is sound and I will definitely be adding some brood w/eggs to the box as soon as I can get out to that yard (no later then Sunday.)

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