Laying workers  

 

Laying workers will occur in a honey bee colony that were without a queen for some time and that didn't have a young brood from which they could have made a new queen.

 

Without a young brood from which the bees could make a new queen, they choose a certain number of worker bees which they begin to actively feed with royal jelly.

 

Being fed with royal jelly, those bees begin to lay eggs. However, the worker bees don't mate so they can only lay unfertilized eggs from which only the drones will hatch.

 

There are many laying workers in the beehive that lay eggs on their own terms, scattering them all over the honeycomb and as a result - many eggs can be found per cell and they can often be found in cells with pollen.

 

 

How to recognize colony with laying workers 

 

Colony doesn’t have a queen

Scattered drone brood

Many eggs in one cell

There are eggs even on the walls of the cells and sometimes in the cells with pollen

Bees usually try to make (fake) queen cells but they are small and smooth on the surfice and not rough like real queen cells

 

 

Eggs - one per cell
These eggs are laid by queen bee. There is only one egg per cell 👑

 

Laying workers' brood
Laying workers. Here you can see many eggs in a cell (blue arrow), two larvae in one cell (red arrow), some eggs are on the walls of the cells (like one pointed with purple arrow). Note: contrary to popular belief, laying workers can and will lay at the bottom of the cells - just some of the eggs will be on the walls 🐝

 

 

Distinguishing laying workers from the drone laying queen

 

Colonies with laying workers as well as those with drone laying queen are recognised by having only drone brood. So how to distinguish laying workers from drone laying queen?

 

 

Laying workers:

 The hive doen't have a real queen

 Many eggs in a cell

 

Drone laying queen:

 The hive has a real queen (which lays only unfertilized eggs)

 Only one egg in a cell

 

 

Difference between the laying workers and a young, newly mated queen

 

A young, newly mated queen bee can sometimes lay 2-3 eggs in one cell, however this should normalize in a few days.

 

 

Laying workers can lay only unfertlized eggs. 

A young queen can lay both fertilized and unfertilized eggs. 

 

 

If you aren't certain whether the colony has laying workers or a new young queen, wait for a week for the bees to close the brood and then check that beehive again:

If you see a closed worker brood in the hive, than they have a young queen

If you only see a closed drone brood, that means that the colony doesn't have a real queen, but it has laying workers.

 

It takes 9 days from the moment the egg is laid until bees close the cell.

 

 

Laying workers - solution 

 

Having laying workers isn't easy to fix. There is always a large number of laying workers in one hive and it is impossible to distinguish them from normal worker bees. 

 

Moreover, the bees act like they have a real queen - they will kill every other queen which is added to the hive. The honey bee colony with laying workers rapidly gets weaker because there are no new worker bees so without the help of the beekeeper, the colony is doomed.

 

So what can you do with laying workers?

 

The first way - easier

 

1During the day, take a hive with laying workers 20 meters from the apiary. (preferably in front of the apiary)

2Shake all the bees out of it.

3When the hive is empty, remove it from the apiary.

 

The bees will try to return to their hive, but since they do not find it, they will go to other hives. Colonies will accept ordinary bees but will not accept laying workers.


Note: There will be some mess until the bees settle down.

Advantages - This method is easy and even a beginner can easily apply it.

Disadvantages - You do not save the colony but only the bees that are accepted by other colonies.

 

 

The second way - advanced

 

We will call the hive with laying workers - hive A.

And another, strong hive with a good queen, we'll call - hive B.

 

Do this during the day when many bees are outside the hive, collecting nectar and pollen.

 

1Find the queen in the hive B (good queen), put her in the cage and remove it from the hive.

1Open the hive B.

2Find the queen. Detailed steps: How To Find The Queen.

3Cover the queen with a cage and wait for her to come in. That's ok if one or two bees come in with her.

4Close the cage.

5Close hive B.

 

2Switch the places of hives A and B.

1Move the entire hive A to the place of hive B.

2Move the entire hive B to the place of hive A.

 

3Place the cage with the queen into the hive A (which is now in the place where hive B was at the beginning).

1Open hive A.

2Stuck the cage with the queen between the frames in the middle of the brood box where most of the brood is.

3Close hive A.

 

4After 48 hours, release the queen from the cage.

1Open the hive A.

2Open the cage.

3Leave the cage in the hive until the queen comes out of it.

4Remove the cage from the hive.

5Close the hive A.

 

 

You have to put the queen in the cage otherwise the bees from the hive A will kill her because they feel her scent and know that it is not their queen.

 

Forage bees from the hive B will return to the place where it was. But since the hives have been replaced, they will enter the hive A thinking that it is their hive. Since these bees bring food, there will be no problems when they try to get into the hive. These bees will find their own queen in a hive (a queen who is placed in a cage and moved from a hive B) that they easily recognize by her scent. But since there are laying workers in the hive, those bees will easily find and kill them.

 

After 48 hours, the scents of bees from the hive A, the queen which you moved from hive B, and the bees that went out of hive B and returned to hive A will be mixed, so it is safe to release the queen from the cage.

 

Since the hive B has been left without a queen, the bees will begin to make queen cells in order to produce a new queen. You can either:

Let them make new queen - go to: Let Bees Make Their Own Queen,

Add new mated queen - go to: New Queen Introduction, or

Add mature queen cell - go to: Queen Cell Introduction.