Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Queenright In Red Hook, Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

Wearin' my sexy hat.

So, I waited a couple weeks. While queens take only a few days (15-17!) to develop from an egg to an emerging virgin, it takes them a few more weeks to stretch their wings, take some mating flights, and get to laying.

Hey guys, I think there are bees in there!


For the young virgins, this is a delicate time; developing hormonal glands, expanding ovaries, and drones where there were none before. With this in mind, it is often a good idea to leave a requeening colony alone until they've had time to adjust and start makin' babies. In any case, bees are much more relaxed when they have brood to take care of, especially later in the season when they are starting to get a bit more defensive and wary of wandering hands. Waiting is the prudent choice for everyone involved.


The bare minimum time for a queen to develop from an egg to a LAYING adult is approximately 25 days. In the last update, I mentioned that I found queen cells, including some capped ones, meaning that they were well over a week into development. With this in mind I didn't stick my head in the hive for over a month; more than long enough to allow for any variables, like poor weather or trouble finding drone congregation areas (DCAs).

Empty super.

Diggin' deeper.

I went in hopeful.

I left disappointed.

Well, at least they have plenty of drone comb?

No seriously, drone comb is great.

I went though the entire hive, every side of every frame looking for any sign of a laying queen and found none. No capped brood, no larvae, no eggs. I found the remains of the queen cells, indicating that at least one of the queens emerged successfully, but I found no sign of her or any other.


Nice distribution.

There is no way of knowing what might have happened to her. There are a huge number of reasons that a new queen might fail. She might have been injured in the highlander style deathmatch that sometimes ensues when multiple virgin queens emerge, or all of the queens may have been killed outright. She may have been eaten by a predatory insect (wasp?) or bird on her orientation or nuptual flights. She may have just failed to mate at all; a lack of virile, vital drones to share their genetic material, or a lack of DCAs. Etc., etc., etc.

Crowd control.

Well, at least there is plenty of honey to make it through the winter.

Regardless of the reason, the problem remains the same. A queenless hive has no chance of survival. Even if the hive was not destroyed by predators or stronger hives as its population waned, it would eventually die of attrition. Laying workers are a clever evolutionary trick to flood the area with drones carrying the genetic material of the hive, but drones can not sustain the hive.

Lots of honey, actually.

So what's a boy to do?



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