Queenless Update

Peter emailed me back with a really helpful advice.

Hi Jo

Sounds like either the hive swarmed or the Queen died/ failed for some reason.

The good news is that’s it’s a reasonably strong colony and with the queen cells, it will survive.

With regards to the capped queen cells, I would certainly reduce the numbers down  -I would keep the largest cells – the question is how many. I tend to leave 2 good cells.

One thought – with the frames that have the queen cells, did you shake them to remove the bees when inspecting the frames? If so, sometimes this can kill the larva as the larva is shaken to the bottom of the cell away from its food.

If you shook them, it might be worth leaving 3 cells.

As they are capped cells, I’d suggest you destroy the queen cells you don’t want – asap – so you don’t have lots of castes being generated, should they hatch out soon.

The next decision is whether and when to check that the queen cells have hatched, option 1 is to take a quick look at the frame(s) with the queen cells in about a weeks time (if they have hatched, the bottom of the cell will be open and the queen gone –in this case close down the hive and leave it for say 3 weeks to allow the queen to mate and start laying. There is a slight risk that this will disturb the bees and they could kill the unmated queen.

Option two, is once you have reduced to 3 queen cells, leave the colony alone for ~ 3 weeks, then take a look to see the new queen is laying etc.

In either case, should the colony fail to produce a queen, I can give you a frame of eggs for them to produce further queen cells.

Best of luck


So this afternoon I went down and destroyed all but 3 large queen cells. Some of those destroyed were just larvae and others were developing into a bee. Fingers crossed one of those left behind will emerge and be accepted into the colony. The colony were not very happy but i did it all in less than 20 mins so I didn’t disturb them for very long. All I can do now is wait and hope the colony gets stronger.



Well today was not an easy inspection – I have discovered that the colony is queenless – the queen was no where to be seen which in itself is not always that worrying, but there is no eggs, larvae and very limited capped brood. The bees were also more agitated than normal (also a sign of a queenless colony)

Oh dear – but on a positive the bees have been very busy and produced a large number of capped queen cells – I lost count at 10. So the good news is that the colony will continue but will be a unstable week.


Questions for me – what do I do with the 10 capped queen cells?  Quick email to Peter – my bee buddy – and get some advice.

In the mean time I did some research that indicates queen cells take 8 days from an egg to be converted into an emergency capped queen cell. It’s been 7 days since my last inspection so the colony must have known by very early after the inspection that the queen was no longer laying. Makes me wonder what happened last week or whether the last spate of queen cups that I have been seeing was indicating that something was wrong.

I found this document that indicates you should kill all but maybe 2 (this gives that if one queen isn’t  as good quality then you have a back up). How do I know which 2 to destroy to give the most chance. Also this talks about how the queen will emerge 2 days after capping hence will need to decide quite soon.


I’ll wait for Peter to come back and hopefully he can give me some advice but I think intervention will be needed soon.

Fingers crossed I get through this obstacle in my early beekeeping experience!

Bee Buddy Visit

Today my bee buddy Peter came to visit and look at my colony.

It was a very bright sunny afternoon which made it so much easier as the bees were out foraging.

We looked through the colony and Peter felt they were a healthy colony and were well behaved.

He felt the likelihood of swarming was slim and the queen cups that were on the frames were probably practice cups.

He helped me tidy up the frames and took off the comb that had been build underneath the frames and it is a good way to reduce the risk of swarming.

I was able to spot some eggs (not many but I have found identifying eggs hard) and larvae at different stages so Peter was able to give me confidence that the colony was developing as normal.

The comb taken off the bottom was full of drone cells and was fascinating itself in seeing the larvae at different stages and be able to see inside. Here are some photos.

A bee emerging from a cell.


A newly born bee – just see how fury it is.


IMG_6432  IMG_6431 27524556510_332deba723_o

This is a close up of a varroa mite – these are more noticeable on the larvae.


On a more painful note, having successfully done the inspection with no stings, I later went back to put the table away and ended up with a bee in my hair and in the process of trying to help it escape, I got stung on my head. Ouch. The pain lasted for several days and i woke up the following morning with a slightly swollen right side of my head and neck. Big learning point – always wear my jacket when visiting the bees esp when I have just made them annoyed.

inspection – 04/06/16

I did an inspection today – there has been nearly 2 weeks since my last one so was very nervous about what i would find.

It was as if there had been an explosion of bees as there was so many more than before. there was capped brood on all but 3 frames in the brood box and the bees are building up comb on the bottom on the frames.

What was more worrying is that there was 7 queen cells . 5 were empty but 2 had larvae in them. I found the queen and there was plenty of larvae, I hadn’t seen any eggs, however it was concerned about leaving the cells to grow as it may well have been my inexperience to finding eggs. I took the decision to destroy the cells and given he amount of larvae I felt it was unlikely that the queen were not laying. i was concerned that if I left the cells there would be a high risk of swarming.

The bees felt quite unhappy today – there were buzzing a lot around me and did not seem happy with my presence. I pushed ahead but used more smoke than I liked.

No concerning cells or disease.

Tips – check every week. Take torch and make sure I get experience at finding queen cells.