Friday, February 27, 2009

Bee Inspection

Last week I called the beekeeper from whom I purchased the hive. He told me that the bees were about to swarm. With the cold nights and the large vacant space in the brood box, the queen was unhappy with her living space. So I went back into the hive the next day with the intentions of removing the new queen cells so the old queen would not leave. To my surprise one of the queens had emerged and was moving around somewhere.

With my inexperience I went looking for the new queen (looks like a larger worker bee but is smaller than a mated queen) but was unsuccessful. I was able to find the old queen hanging out by the side of the hive waiting for the weather to be right so she could swarm. Not knowing what to do, I took the old queen and her followers and put her in another brood box. I added one of the full brood frames from the original hive hoping the new queen was not on that frame. I then put another feeder tray on the top of the new box and sealed it up with grass shoved into the reducer holes.

Two weeks later I opened both hives to see how things were going. In the new hive all looks calm and productive. There are very few, because I was unable to put that many worker bees with the old queen, and I figured she would be able to produce more brood to increase their numbers.

The second hive was a different story. When pulling the frames the first thing I noticed was the four new queen cells that had been produced in the past two weeks (see image below cells are circled in red). They were not on the bottom of the frame as before, because this time there was no laying queen. The cells were in the middle of the two frames on both left and right sides.

Did the new queen die? Were these cells created to make sure that they have a queen if the new queen dies while mating? Was killing the queen brood the right thing to do in this case? I will have to get back to you on these questions. My plan is to observe the hive in the next couple of days and if I see stress from the old hive I will rejoin the two hives. It is looking very much like spring here so I am confident that they will be able to overcome these issues with the increase in temp and food sources.


  1. It's possible your original queen killed the swarm queen before you moved her to the new box since you couldn't identify a swarm queen. It sounds like your old hive is trying to produce a new queen because there's not one there, so I think that's probably the most likely explanation. I'd kill all the queen brood you have, recombine the hives with the old queen and add more space. Your old queen will duke it out with a swarm queen, if there happens to be one there and she wasn't killed already (if there is one there, she's inferior based on your description and wouldn't make it through a fight with a stronger queen), and as long as there's enough space the bees shouldn't try swarming again. My two cents. Julia

  2. Glen this sounds like a soap opera with so many unanswered questions at the end of each episode. It's very interesting and sounds complicated. By the way, the combs look great when photographed with the sun illuminating them.

  3. Intriguing and interesting ... I never knew bees were so fascinating.

  4. We took Julia's advice and combined the hives. We shall see how it goes!