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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
How to recognize:
Only drone brood
Many eggs per cell
We are explaining laying workers in details here: Laying Workers.
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.
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
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.