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Friday, July 25, 2014

Queenless Hive - How to Move a Frame of Brood and Eggs Without Accidentally Including the Queen

Julia and I inspected our hives at Chastain a week ago.  We discovered to our dismay that my hive was queenless.  There was no sign of queen cells and the bees, while there was no queenless roar, were diminshing in population.  We added a frame of brood and eggs from Julia's hive at Chastain and crossed our fingers.

For best results in adding a frame of brood and eggs, the beekeeper should add a frame weekly until the hive has established a new queen.  Michael Bush talks about this in the queenless hive that has resulted in laying workers, but it holds for any queenless hive:  adding a frame of brood and eggs weekly allows the best possibility of the hive being able to become queenright.

So this weekend I need to move a frame of brood and eggs from one of my hives at home to my Chastain hive about 25 minutes away from here.

As you know, I edit the Georgia Beekeepers Association newsletter with my friend, Gina.  We asked Noah to suggest a question for Aunt Bee, our Dear Abby of the Georgia bee world.  Noah suggested a question about how to transport a frame of brood and eggs to a queenless hive.

I also asked him to answer the question.   He said he had always heard to wrap the frame in a towel soaked in warm water and put it in a cooler to maintain its warmth.  I thought that sounded good.  What I typically do is drop the open brood frame into a pillow case and drive like mad to the far away location.

That is, of course, not the safest plan!

So to confirm Noah's suggestion, I went online "googling."

I found the suggestion on Beemaster forum to wrap the frame in a warm damp towel for transport.  As I explored I found a post from one of my favorite posters on all the bee forum places.  This was from Indypartridge who posts on Beemaster but I found his advice on Homesteader.

Generally the best way to move brood is with the nurse bees to keep them warm.  Most people removing an open brood frame are afraid that they might accidentally take the queen.

This is what Indypartridge said:

"I can understand being nervous about accidentally transferring the queen along with a frame of brood from the strong hive to the weak. ........you can simply shake off the bees and give the weak hive a frame of eggs & open brood. If you want to give the weak hive an even better boost, you should transfer nurse bees along with the frame of brood. Do it this way so you don't transfer the queen:
1) Take a frame of eggs/larva from the strong hive. Shake off all the bees.
2) Put a queen excluder on top of the strong colony.
3) Add an empty box on top of the excluder. Put the single frame in the box.
4) Cover up the hive, leave for an hour or two.
5) Come back, the frame will be covered with nurse bees (and no queen).
6) Put the frame of eggs/larva & nurse bees in the weak hive.

I use this method for making nucs and splits when I don't want to spend time looking for a queen."

You could then put the brood frame with the nurse bees into a nuc box for transport.  Typically a hive will pretty readily accept nurse bees from another hive.


  1. Transporting nurse bees is the best way to keep the eggs and brood warm for the trip. Also if you are queenless and needing the 1 to 4 day old eggs for them to make a new queen it stands to reason the hive with a queen has a better chance of making a new queen than the queenless hive. So if you mistakenly move the queen you may set the queenright hive back but have actually increased your odds of both hives surviving overall.

  2. These are great tips! Thanks

  3. Adding a frame of brood weekly until the queenless hive is established is only possible if you have several strong hives in hand. I have only 2 hives 1 of which is my re-captured main swarm. The other one is currently quuenless and my 1st attempt of raising a queen using swarm cells (reducing them down to 2 to avoid cast swarm) seems to have failed. I have added a frame of young larvae and eggs to my queenless hive but I assume I can only afford to remove 1 more frame at best without weakening my other hive..Would re-uniting the 2 hives be a better option in that case? Thanks

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    1. In your particular case, it would be better to combine the two hives back together, making sure they have enough available space. We typically use the newspaper method for combining two colonies together.

  6. why not just inspect the one frame to see there is no queen on it ha.

    1. Of course, it's easiest simply to pull a frame and inspect it. The method described here is in the event you are insecure about your ability to see the queen or if you want to be completely sure that even if you didn't see her, she wasn't hiding on the bottom or in a cell. Using this method makes it virtually impossible to move the queen accidentally.

  7. Sounds like you are on the right track. Using common since goes a long way. Smile and keep it up and you will be blessed.


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