Queen–Missing in Action

This is the second year in a row that I have rushed into judgment about one of my hives being queenless.  Obviously, this is only my second year, but I hope that I soon start learning not to be so quick to panic.

So here’s what happened. As Spring finally took hold in West Virginia, my bi-weekly hive checks began.  I noticed that my Bruceton hive had a lot ( I mean A LOT) of queen cups and queen cells.  Thinking that it was time for a swarm, I removed one of my bars with capped queen cells and made a split, and added extra bars to open the brood area of the hive, hoping to convince the girls they had plenty of growing room.  In two weeks I came to the hive and found queen cells that have been opened by workers and a dead queen larvae removed.  I assumed a new queen was born, and she was offing the competition.

Two weeks more, and I entered the hive to find a ton ( I mean A TON) of male drone bees.  Further inspection of the bars found no capped brood, no brood at all which made me very nervous.  The bees were happy and calm, but I wasn’t.

(I circled the drone bees that are obvious.  They are bigger than the worker bees and have very large eyes in comparison. )


Alarms going off in my head, I’m sure I have a queenless hive.  This is a bad thing and one that needs to be remedied quickly before my workers started to do something foolish, like start laying eggs themselves.  I texted my mentor for any leads on a new queen, and I asked for advice on this great Top Bar Facebook group.  Overwhelming, the group told me to take a breath and assured me that all was well with my hive and just give it some more time.

Today, one week later…because I could wait any longer, when I looked in my queenless hive, I saw this.  EGGS!!   Bee eggs look like small pieces of rice standing on end in the center of the cell.  There was a full bar of them.  I have a LAYING QUEEN.


In the end, this is what I learned.  If the hive is acting fine and looks fine…it’s probably fine :). It might sound simple, but this is the second time a hive without a queen has made me nervous.  Maybe if I keep repeating it, I’ll learn to trust they know what they’re doing.

Doing the happy bee dance.


The Season of Swarms

As my love for bees continues to grow, I wanted to share my enthusiasm for my small backyard hobby.

I know…bees stings right!

What I’ve learned in my first year of beekeeping is by far outweighs the occasional sting. Honest!  Now in my second year, I am excited to share the joy these bees have given me.  Please understand I am in no way an expert in bees, but my love for these little fuzzy ladies is true.   I would love to share with you what I did in my first year, as well as keep you informed as year two continues to develop.

I’m going to start this blog with a photo I took this weekend.  What you are seeing are queen cells,  (the cup looking things that are open at the top) and what this is telling me is that my hive want’s to swarm!  That is when the old queen takes a  bunch of the resident bees and leaves the hive in search for a new home…leaving behind the pupa of the new queen to take over what remains.

Why would she do this?  Because it’s one of two ways that bees insure there survival.  What beekeepers try and do is prevent the swarm by splitting the hive…kind of like an artificial swarm, and putting it in a new hive to let them prosper.  I tried to do that, but I didn’t do it correctly and forgot to move the queen with my split 😦  Now I have a hive without a queen, and a hive ready to swarm.

All is good though, no harm done to the bees.  The queen-less hive will produce a queen, and the  hive that swarmed ( or will swarm), will have more room to grow.  If the old queen already left, we didn’t see that swarm and we have lost those bees for our apiary.  If she is preparing to leave, we have set up a trap to try and catch her, and her worker bees to place them into a new hive to grow that colony.  Only time will tell…but I’m sure keeping my fingers crossed that I haven’t misses her.