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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a!
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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Laying Worker, Lost Hive

After we picked up bees last weekend, Julia and I went over to her house to inspect her big hive, Poppy. The hive was thriving. We saw lovely brood in the top boxes.



We saw her majesty and she allowed a photo opp! (I am so glad to get a really good picture of her!)


Julia's other hive was quiet. Only a few bees went across the threshold while we worked on Poppy. When we finished Poppy, we opened the hive (called Leslie's hive),and found only enough bees to cover a frame or so and we didn't see brood, to speak of.

As we examined the frames we discovered cells with several eggs in each cell. This is a clear sign of a laying worker.

See the eggs in the cells below? They don't stand as upright as when the queen lays them and several cells have more than one egg in them.



The old way of thinking says that if the queen is alive and active in a hive, her pheromone production serves to suppress the hormones of the workers. All the workers are fully developed females but they have not been fertilized. Consequently a worker is only capable of laying drone brood.

However, without the pheromone of the queen, the survival instinct of the hive would inspire a worker or workers to begin becoming "productive" at least as much as they can without fertilization females.

However in the Wisdom of the Hive, Seeley says that it is now "clear that the pheromones that provide the proximate stimulus for workers to refrain from laying eggs come mainly from the brood, not from the queen." (Seeley, Wisdom of the Hive, 1995, p. 11) This determination came from Seeley's own study in 1985 and one by Willis Winston, and Slessor in 1990.

Seeley also writes that in a queenright colony, the worker bees police the worker-laid eggs, destroying them when they find them. Isn't that interesting. From a Darwinian point of view, it is for survival of the fittest, but too complex to go into here.

Julia brought the frame in and took the photo below of the frame with no bees on it so we could better see the multiple eggs.


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4 comments:

  1. Linda: I had a laying worker last year. I was able to obtain a queen from a dealer, and on the advice of other beekeepers, I took the hive on the other side of my property. I shook every single bee off the frames (in hopes of losing the laying worker who, chance are, had never left the hive and couldnt find her way back). I then took the hive back to its stand (and I was met by a swirling mass of bees looking for their hive too..they were perched on the inner cover too). When I put the hive back, the bees went right inside like it was a parade. I introduced the caged queen..and it took the bees three days to eat the candy and release her. She went right to work and the laying worker delimma was over. It was a success for me although I've heard that isn't always the case.

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  2. On Michael Bush's page, he says there are a number of possible approaches, often all failures. What you did sounds great, but Michael says that sometimes they kill the new queen. Seeley says there are often a number of laying workers when you see evidence of it. There were so few bees in this hive that Julia decided to put a piece of newspaper on the top of her good hive and set this box on top of it to see if these workers would join the other hive.

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  3. informative post - great photos too. thanks!

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  4. I do like the photo with the queen. It a good educational picture as you can see a few drones as well and can very easily see the difference in size of both their body and eyes compared to workers

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