Queen Questions

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My inspection of the bottom brood box did not go well this morning.  I did not find my marked queen.  (I did no see her when I inspected the upper brood box last Thursday, either.)  I did find a good deal of capped brood, and some uncapped larvae, but not much, so I'm guessing she was there as recently as a week ago.  However, I didn't find anything I could positively identify as eggs.  (I've seen eggs before and can recognize them, and I only found one frame with what I thought may be eggs in the bottom of the cells, but I couldn't positively identify them as such.)  The foragers and workers are filling old brood (dark) comb with nectar and pollen -- lots of it. But despite the organized activity gathering behavior, it seems that my old marked queen may be gone.

There is evidence that my queen may have been superceded.  I found what looked loke an empty swarm cell hanging off the bottom of a frame in the upper brood box when I went into the hive Thursday evening.  Today I found what looked like two supercedure cells on one of the frames in the lower box, both located on the upper part of the foundation/comb.  (Looked just like the picture on page 123 of the "Dummies" book.)  They hadn't opened yet.  Also, and don't laugh, I thought I heard a queen.  When I pulled one of the frames (near the center, where the mass of bees was thickest) I heard a faint noise that sounded kind of like a bird from a distance, which I though it was at first.  But it was coming from the frame.      I lowered the frame back into the hive, then drew it out again, and heard the noise again.  I did this a couple more times to see if I could locate where on the frame the sound was coming from, but I couldn't pinpoint it that closely.  I also looked for my marked queen, or even what could be an unmarked queen in and among the mess of bees in the frame, but I was unseccessful.  I've always been able to locate my marked queen and distinguish her from the other bees in the past,  but I'm not certain I could pick out an unmarked queen in a pile.

My questions:  
1)  From what I have described, does it sound like my original marked queen has gone?
2)  Could the workers have decided to supercede the queen, even as she managed to lay some eggs as recently as a week ago?  I know they would have had to decide to create a queen about two weeks ago, and any existing uncapped larvae would have been laid more recently than that.
3)  Could a new queen emerge without the other supercedure cells erupting until much later?
4)  Would a queen recently emerged be easily distinguished from a worker, at least to my novice eye?
5)  Would a new queen, virgin or just newly mated, pipe?
6)  What would YOU do, given my situation?

By the way, the workers have not been drawing much comb in the honey super, and instead seem to have concentrated all their hoarding and comb building behavior on a few remaining outer frames of the brood chamber.  Sigh!

-- Kris

Did you look in the upper brood box again or figure since you were there last Thursday was good enough?  Kind of sounds like you have both a swarm cell and supercedure cells.  If they have swarmed, the queen quits laying to trim down and become airworthy, so greatly reduced brood.  If they have superceded her, a young queen is very difficult to see until she fills up with eggs and begins laying heavily.  They also tend to run and hide, unlike the give a darn majectic behavior of a laying queen.  The thing that sticks out in my mind, is the abdomen appears almost triangular instead of long and ripe.  If you really have doubts, and can't find eggs, is it possible for you to move a frame with eggs from another colony?  Then if they start building more queen cells, it could confirm your suspicions.  As far as piping, I don't know what it might indicate.  I wouldn't panic.  You noted hive activity seems organized and they are storing nectar and pollen.  I would give them a frame of eggs and take a wait see approach.  Too often I have seen people order new queens only to see a dead queen being dragged out of the colony a few days later.  The great thing about bees, is they usually know what to do, and don't require daily intervention to do it.

Thanks for the suggestion.  Unfortunately, I don't have a frame of eggs available, as this is my only hive.  I am reluctant to get another queen, as I'm not sure exactly what the colony has going on.  One of my thoughts was that I should wait a week or so and check for eggs then.  Any ideas on that?

-- Kris

I'm a little confused.  You have a swarm cell that appears to have emerged.  Can you tell if they swarmed?   You have capped supercedure cells which have not emerged.  Maybe eggs, but not definitely.  Piping, which as far as I know, is a queen trait and not performed by workers.   Unless you use an excluder, you can't make a complete search for the queen in two parts over a span of a couple days.  A new queen moves around quite a bit with her own inspections before settling down to lay. I think your plan to give them some time is the best.

I'm a LOT confused.  To all outside appearances, the hive seems healthy, with no sign of having swarmed -- tens of thousands of bees, lots of collected nectar, pollen and stored honey (albeit in the upper brood box, not the honey super), and lots of directed behavior.  The foragers exit the hive like shots from a rifle, and I daily see workers taking orientation flights.  A few dozen bees even stood on the front porch and fanned the hive scent out toward the field when I reassembled the hive after my inspection (which I've seen them do on numerous occasions before).  They all act like a queen is present -- but there's no indication inside the hive of recent queen activity, i.e., eggs.

So I'll wait a while and see if a new queen replaced my old one and check for eggs in a week or two before even thinking of re-queening.

-- Kris


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