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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 17th year of beekeeping in April 2022. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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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
Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Bee-Surprise at Home in the Process of Managing Swarms

The invited swarm at Tom's house that moved in in response to my swarm lure appeared to be queenless when I opened the hive a couple of weeks ago. As you'll remember from my last post, my plan was to take them a frame of brood and eggs every week for the next few weeks.

I decided to take the frame of brood and eggs from my survivor hive that overwintered as a nuc and has a queen from the Bill Owens' survivors that I own. At this time of year at the height of the nectar flow, I rarely take a hive down to the bottom box. Mostly I look at the top box to see if they need more space for nectar.

I opened the survivor hive and started lifting off the heavy eight frame boxes full of honey. When I got to the next to the bottom box, I thought there was a possibility of a brood frame there, so I started pulling frames. To my horror, the brood frames were back-filled with nectar - no eggs, no brood. On two frames I saw newly opened queen cells.

The top box on this hive contained four fully capped honey frames and four untouched frames to the right of them. This has been the case for two weeks of heavy nectar. So now I know they have been placing the nectar in empty brood frames.

Oh, no, these bees are without a current queen or at least have a brand new queen. Both queen cells had been ripped open from the side, so probably represented the new queen killing her potential rivals.

Finding all brood cells back-filled with nectar in that second box, I went into the bottom box of the hive. There I found more back-filled brood cells but on one frame, I found highly polished empty cells, waiting for the queen to return to fill them. I felt some relief, thinking that the queen was on her mating flights and that this hive was, indeed, OK.

This morning I saw bees flying in with pollen.

I am feeling reassured. But to make sure they didn't keep back-filling the brood chambers, I went ahead and put a new super on above the four filled frames.

The brood frame for the queenless hive at Tom's house would have to come from a different hive.


  1. I have the exact scenario in one of my hives. Do we just hang on a week or two and wait to see if the assumed queen starts a-laying?

    PS. Is it too early to take any of that capped honey?

  2. If the honey is capped, it's fine to take it. I will check in a week, but the polished cells and the pollen being brought in both give me reason to think the queen will be laying.

  3. Do bees not bring in pollen if they are queenless? I've never stopped to think about this before and now I'm curious. I agree with you, seeing an open space the bees intentionally left for the queen is usually always a good sign (for me) that they have a new queen.

  4. The bees bring in pollen when there are larvae to feed. When they are queenless, you usually see very little pollen brought into the hive.


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