New hive problems

Summerville, GA(Zone 7b)

I have just started bee keeping about three weeks ago with one hive. When I checked on the status after the first week, I found that the queen had been released from her cage as expected, although I didn't actually see her. This past weekend when I checked in I still did not see the queen, but there are some brood cells with larvae in them. What has me concerned is that I also noticed several cells with more than one egg in it. I have read that the queen will only lay one egg per cell. Is this a definite sign that the queen is gone, and I have a problem with workers laying eggs?

Baton Rouge, LA

Yes, that is not a good sign, especially if there are several eggs in some of the cells. 2+ weeks after the queen was released you should have quite a few cells with single eggs and larvae (at least, if not pupae). Unfortunately, once laying workers develop, it is much harder to introduce a new queen, even for experienced beekeepers.

Summerville, GA(Zone 7b)

Thanks for the confirmation. I have read the procedure for remedying this situation, and I did not want to go to all of that trouble if it was not absolutely necessary. This weekend I will take one more really good look before ordering a new queen, and removing all of the bees from the hive before installing her.

Nichols, IA(Zone 5a)

Question. I love bees, but am not a beekeeper. What happens when the workers lay eggs? What do the eggs become?

Summerville, GA(Zone 7b)

I am new at this too, but it is my understanding that they become all drones. This will eventually cause your hive to fail. I have also read that these laying workers will kill a new queen that is introduced. My book says that the solution to this problem is to take your hive at least 100 yd.s away from its present location, except for the bottom board. Then you remove all of the bees from the hive and replace it back on the bottom board. The theory is that since the laying workers have never been outside of the hive, they will not be able to find their way back. The other worker bees , and I suppose the drones too, will be able to return to the hive. You can then introduce a new queen. I will be trying this out next week, if my carefull inspection this weekend confirms that I have laying workers.

Nichols, IA(Zone 5a)

I see. I'll keep watching for updates on your new hive. Good luck!

Cocoa Beach, FL

Hey stephl How did your experiment go? I am a relatively new bee keeper and I am interested in finding out how things went.

Savannah, MO(Zone 5b)

Not a bee keeper but sure is very interesting. Bees are truly amazing and so is there honey!


Summerville, GA(Zone 7b)

Hi everybody,
It's been a while, so I wanted to bring you up to date on the status of my hive problem.

I was really hesitant to do the procedure that I spelled out previously. Being so new to beekeeping, I did not fully trust my own eyes with what I was seeing. So I took some pictures and sent them to a friend who is a very experienced beekeeper, just to get his confirmation that I was correctly diagnosing the problem. He immediately agreed that I indeed had only drone brood in the hive.

You can see in the attached picture that all of the capped brood cells are yellowish in color, and have a protruding domed cap. Drones are larger than workers, so they require a larger cell to develop. A worker bee brood cell should have an almost flat cap that is tanish in color. The white colored capped cells that you see I believe is honey, or nectar. You can also see some developing pupae in some cells before they are capped. You should be able to zoom in and get a good look.

Once I got the confirmation that I needed, I ordered a new queen. When she arrived, I performed the shake -out procedure. Let me tell you, I had a bunch of angry bees!!

After returning the empty hive to its original location, I installed the new queen. There were quite a few bees already at the hive location waiting for me when I arrived with the hive. It didn't take long at all for most of the bees to return.

I checked in on the hive after three days, and the queen had still not been released from her cage. So I helped things along a little by poking a hole in the candy that plugged her exit hole. I checked back two days later and she was out. That was about a week ago.

Since then I have been watching the activity at the hive entrance, and have observed worker bees dragging out newly hatched drones and dropping them on the ground around the exterior of the hive. The ants then quickly take care of them. I guess this is an effort to bring population balance back to the hive.

My biggest concern now is time. I am afraid that the aging workers that I have left might not live long enough for the new workers to hatch out. It takes around 21 days for an egg to develop and hatch. From what I have read, the life span of a worker bee in the summer time is only a few months and I have had my bees since April 13th.

I am going to leave them alone for three or four weeks hoping that if I don't stress them any more they will live longer.

That's it for now, I will give another update later on and hopefully have some good news to tell.

Thumbnail by Riversdale
Nichols, IA(Zone 5a)

That was interesting! Good luck with your workers. I didn't know they had such a short life. I thought bees lived longer than a year, since they winter over.

Summerville, GA(Zone 7b)

I think their life span depends on the time of the year when they are born. They literally work themselves to death in the spring and summer. Bees that are born late in the year are not as active, and last through the winter into spring.

Castelnau RB Pyrenée, France(Zone 8a)

What an interesting thread, thanks very much for the update stephl. Here's wishing you luck with your new queen and that the workers can live long enough for the changeover to be successful

Summerville, GA(Zone 7b)

Thanks philomel,
I appreciate your interest, and I am sure I will need the luck also.

Castelnau RB Pyrenée, France(Zone 8a)

My father kept bees and I remember helping with the extraction and seeing him with the smoke puffer. I keep wondering whether I'll give it a go, but haven't taken the plunge yet, so am doing a little lurking wistfully on this forum lol
I look forward to hearing how you get on..... thanks

Milton, FL(Zone 8a)

You don't need to open the hive to tell if the queen is alright and laying.Watch the landing board.If you see lots of bees carrying in pollen then your queen is ok.

Summerville, GA(Zone 7b)

Bad news!
I had not opened my hive for about three weeks until yesterday. I was trying to leave the bees undisturbed so the hive could recover quicker. Every few days I would look at the activity at the entrance, and it looked pretty normal.
Yesterday when I checked I saw no bees at the entrance, so I decided to open it up. What I found was devastating. All of the frames that had wax comb were completely covered with wax moth larvae and web. Most of the wax was gone, and only a hand full of bees still alive. I guess the hive was just too small and weak from their previous difficulties to repel the moths.

I believe it is too late in the season this year for me to start over again. I will regroup and try again next Spring with two or three new hives. This year has been disappointing, but still an interesting learning experience.

Hopefully I haven't discouraged any potential beekeepers from giving it a try. My bad results is probably the worst case scenario.

Nichols, IA(Zone 5a)

I'm so sorry. I applaud anyone who can improve the honeybee population. This year I've noticed them drinking from the birdbath. We seem to have a few more than we used to. I've ''worried'' about it ever since the program on bee mites years ago.

Castelnau RB Pyrenée, France(Zone 8a)

Oh, I'm sorry to hear about this further blow to your bee keeping. I do hope you have success next spring when you try again. I'll be thinking of you!!

Sydney, Australia

Stephl, I'm sorry to hear about your lost hive, but don't give up. I noticed in your photo that the bees seemed to be dark in colour. This could mean that they are Caucasian bees. Caucasian;s gather more honey (nectar) than other bees, but are harder to control (sting wise). I prefer the Italian bees which are more orange in colour and collect less honey. Because they sting less.
A little trick that I learned a long time ago, was to place a dab of fingernail polish on the queen's thorax. It doesn't harm the queen in any way or form, but it is easier to spot the queen on the comb.
Here in Australia we requeen every two years and it is much easier to locate the old queen when she has a red thorax.
Good luck with your beekeeping.

Stratford, CT(Zone 6b)

Do you have a beekeeping association close to where you live? Locally, my wife has the Backyard Beekeepers Association ( and they have been very helpful to her. This past season, her hive swarmed and thanks to the help of her club, she was able to successfully rear a new queen and salvage the hive before the nectar flow slowed down.

I hope your hive is doing better. From the sounds of things, you did all you could, but had an unfortunate experience. Between this and next year, if you don't have access to a club, I recommend reading The Queen and I as well as Beekeeping for Dummies as both are great books for beginner beekeepers. There are also medications that when applied aparingly at certain times of the year can help prevent some of the problems you experienced this year.

If you don't have access to a regional club, these guys are a good alternative:

I hope next year is more successful for you. Best of luck to you in your beekeeping.

This message was edited Aug 14, 2006 12:57 PM

Kirtland, NM

We just opened our hive to get it ready for winter. We are a bit concerned because the frames of honey for the bees are very brown in color. There are some normal looking areas in the frames, but the dark brown areas aren't capped, and it just looks very wrong. Anyone have any suggestions on what may have gone wrong??? We had also put on a new super awhile back for an early fall harvest, but there is only one frame with honey and only on one side. There were very few bees in that super as well.

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