Problems with the queen bee

 

The honey bee colony can survive only if it has a mated queen bee that lays fertilized eggs. If the beekeeper doesn't help the colony that doesn't have a queen, or has a queen with some problem, that colony is doomed. This is why it is really important for the beekeeper to notice the problem on time and solve it.

 

If the bee colony with queen problem is very weak, the best you can do is to combine it with a strong or relatively strong colony. Trying to save it, will cost you time and resources but chances for success are small (especially for beginner beekeepers). Taking the resources from your other hives can weaken those hives as well. 

Instructions for combining colonies: Combining Two Colonies.

 

How to notice if there is a problem with the queen bee

 

There is something wrong with the queen if the beehive:

Doesn’t have a brood at all 

Doesn’t have much brood 

The brood is scattered with many empty cells in between the ones with the brood

There is more drone brood than worker brood

There is only drone brood

 

 

Frame full of capped brood
Brood frame. Look how beautifully covered it is. With just few empty cells. This is one good queen 👌👑

 

Scattered brood
Scattered brood with many empty cells in between. This is not very good 🧐 

 

 

External conditions that can affect the current egg laying  

 

Keep in mind that the smaller brood or no brood at all can be caused by some current conditions:

 

If it's the dearth season - check the food supplies in the beehive

In fall - the honey bee colony is preparing for the winter and the queen slows down with egg laying and at some point completely stops. 

Urge for swarming - at some point queen bee will stop laying eggs - check if there are swarm queen cells in the beehive

 

 

Frame of brood and honey in fall
It’s fall and queens are reducing their egg laying. Marked area is brood and the rest is honey which bees are preparing for winter 🍂

 

 

That is why it is good to always have at least 2-3 beehives so you can compare them with each other. 

 

 

Weak queen bee

 

How to recognize a weak queen:

Much smaller brood compared with other hives

The brood is scattered with many empty cells in between 

 

 

Weak queen - scattered brood pattern
Weak queen. But keep in mind that the frame can look like this if the bees are emerging from it. So you need to inspect all the frames with brood, both open and closed brood in order to conclude the queen is bad 🧐

 

 

This can happen for many reasons:

The old queen bee which started to get tired of laying eggs

Bad genetics of the queen

Poorly raised queen:

There was a dearth during her developmet so the larva wasn't fed properly

The queen cell wasn't heated well (it was cold, there weren't enough bees in the hive to keep constant temperature...)

The queen hatched from the emergency queen cell which was built from an older larva that didn't receive the right quantity of royal jelly from the very beginning of her development. 

 

Solution:

1Replacing the queen - Queen Replacement 

2Combining with another queenright colony - Combining Two Colonies

 

 

Drone laying queen

 

 How to recognize drone laying queen:

The colony has a queen

One egg in each honeycomb cell

There is only drone brood in the beehive

 

 

Drone and worker brood
Can you see the difference between worker and drone brood? Blue arrows point to some of the capped drone cells and pink to some of the capped worker cells. There should be some drone brood (sometimes more, sometimes less) in every beehive but what is not normal is when there is only drone brood. 🐝

 

Drone brood
Drone brood. You may sometimes find a whole frame of drone brood. If there is good worker brood on other frames everything is fine. But if there is no worker brood in the whole hive or there is very little worker brood then something is wrong 🐝 

 

 

Why this happens:

This can happen if the queen bee didn't mate at all or she emptied her spermatheca so she is laying only the unfertilized eggs.

 

She doesn’t lay unfertilized drone eggs only in the big drone cells, but in the small worker cells as well.

 

Solution:

1Replace the queen - Queen Replacement 

2Combine with a good queenright bee colony - Combining Two Colonies

 

 

Queen that lays more unfertilized than fertilized eggs 

 

How to recognize:

There is same amount or even more drone brood than the worker brood 

Mixed cells with worker and drone brood

There is drone brood in small worker cells as well

Scattered brood

 

 

How this happens:

Sometimes the queen bee lays the same amount or more unfertilized than fertilized eggs - for example if she didn't mate well or if her spermatheca is almost empty.

 

Solution:

1Replace the queen - Queen Replacement 

2Combine with another good queenright colony - Combining Two Colonies

 

 

The honey bee colony doesn't have a queen

 

If the colony loses its queen for any reason, there are two situations:

 

1The colony is able to make a new queen on its own, and 

 

2The colony is not able to make a new queen.

 

We are explaining both situations in details here: Queenless Hive.

 

Spotty brood - no eggs and larvae
No eggs or larvae. Only some emerging capped brood left in this hive and soon there’ll be no brood at all. If you see something like this you should immediately check if that hive is queenless or something else is happening inside 🧐

 

 

Laying workers 

 

How to recognize:

 No queen 

 Only drone brood 

 Many eggs per cell 

 

We are explaining laying workers in details here: Laying Workers.

 

 

Angry bees

 

Beekeeper opening the beehive
Although this hive looks very angry, it’s not because of its genetic. It’s dearth right now and all the colonies are in the similar mood 😡

 

 

It can happen that some colony is especially angry. This happens because of the queen's genetics.

 

If it's hard to work with that bee colony, the queen can be replaced with a queen or queen cell from a calmer honey bee colony.

 

 

You should keep in mind that even bees that are usually calm can sometimes become angry and attack more – during dearth, when there is no food, bad weather, they lost their queen...

 

 

That is why you should first check if the aggresive colony has some kind of a problem (for example, it doesn’t have a queen bee, lack of food...) and compare it with other colonies in the apiary. If the other bee colonies are angry as well, this means that the problem isn't the queen's genetics but the current external conditions. As soon as the conditions change or the problem is solved, the bees will also calm down.

 

 

If the bee colony is constantly angry and it doen't have any problem and other colonies on the apiary are calm, this means that the problem lies in the queen's genetics.

 

 

You should not remove bad queen and left the colony to make its own queen because the new queen will inherit most of her mother’s characteristics.

 

 

Angry bees usually make more honey but it is harder to work with them.

 

 

Solution:

1Replace the queen with a queen or a queen cell from a calmer bee colony - Queen Replacement 

2Combine it with another good calm queenright colony - Combining Two Colonies

 

 

Africanized bees!!!

You should check closely if there are Africanized bees in your area. We cannot provide you with any instructions or information about Africanized bees because we don’t have any experience with them. There are no Africanized bees in our area. We don’t want to mislead you in any way so we will not give you any advice on that topic. If you live in an area where there might be Africanized bees, please inform yourself well and get someone locally who can help you and provide you with good knowledge and information about them.