By Michael Bush
Editor’s Note: We ran this article a year ago. It is so helpful we wanted to repeat it.
We are coming into the time of year that you’ll be doing inspections and finding queens that are failing, missing, or you’re not sure what the deal is but you think some hives are queenless. The problem with the situation is you may think they are queenless when actually they have a virgin that isn’t laying yet, or you may think they have laying workers, when actually the queen just hasn’t hit her stride yet and laid multiple eggs. How can you do the right thing when you are not certain?
There are few solutions as universal in their application and success than adding a frame of open brood every week for three weeks.
- It is a virtual panacea for any queen issues.
- It gives the bees the pheromones to suppress laying workers.
- It gives them more workers coming in during a period where there is no laying queen.
- It does not interfere if there is a virgin queen.
- It gives them the resources to rear a queen.
- It is virtually foolproof and does not require finding a queen or seeing eggs.
If you have any issue with queenrightness, no brood, or worry that there is no queen, this is the simple solution that requires no worrying, no waiting, and no hoping. You just give them what they need to resolve the situation. If you have any doubts about the queenrightness of a hive, give them some open brood and sleep well. Repeat once a week for two more weeks if you still aren’t sure. By then things will be fine.
If you are afraid of transferring the queen from the queenright hive because you are not good at finding queens, then shake or brush all the bees off before you give it to them.
If you are concerned about taking eggs from another new package or small colony, keep in mind that bees have little invested in eggs and the queen can lay far more eggs than a small colony can warm, feed and raise. Taking a frame of eggs from a small struggling new hive and swapping it for an empty comb or any drawn comb will have little impact on the donor colony and may save the recipient if they are indeed queenless. If the recipient didn’t need a queen it will fill in the gap while the new queen gets mated and not interfere with things.
Michael Bush has had an eclectic set of careers, currently he is working in computers. He has been keeping bees since the mid 70s, usually from two to seven hives up until the year 2000. Varroa forced more experimentation which required more hives and the number has grown steadily over the years from then. By 2008 he had about 200 hives. He is active on many of the Beekeeping forums with last count at about 45,000 posts between all of them. He has a website at www.bushfarms.com/bees.htm.