Is My Hive Queenless????

It happens. You go to inspect your colony, and there is no sign of a queen. Now what??


Look for any signs of a queen by doing the following

  1. STEP 1: Do you see eggs? 
    1. YES: You have a queen. Close up the hive!
    2. NO: Go to Step 2
  2. STEP 2: Have you searched for her?
    1. YES: Can't find her. Go to Step 3
    2. NO: Take time to look for her on ALL frames and inner cover. Look hard. 
  3. STEP 3: Do you see queen cells?
    1. YES: Good. Let them make a new queen. Close up the hive and check to see if they've hatched with next several inspections. 
    2. NO: Go to Step 4
  4. STEP 4: Do you see multiple eggs in one cell?
    1. YES: You have laying workers. Consider combining colony with a different one.  
    2. NO: Go to Step 5
  5. STEP 5:  It's time to make a decision.
    1. Buy a new queen (80-90% success rate)*
    2. Introduce a frame of eggs from another colony and let them make a new queen (30-60% success rate)
    3. Wait and see if the queen wasn't dead but inactive (0-10% success rate)

* success rate is based off of my experience only



So your hive has no queen, what should I do now? There are several things you can do. You don't have to panic yet, but making your decision quicker will help get things corrected and back on track in time to catch blooms and nectar flows. 

    Find a beekeeper local whom you trust who has a queen for sale and purchase. At the time of this post the average cost is between $35-45 per queen. She will come in a small cage. 
    A. Ensure the queen is sealed with a cork or candy (marshmallow)
    B. Put the queen into the hive in between center frames with screen facing forward. 
    C. Wait 4-6 days for the colony to accept her and release her if she isn't out of her cage yet
    D. Check in 3-14 days if she's started laying
    Introducing a frame of eggs from another colony will give them a chance to make a new queen. It takes longer than buying a queen and you won't have brood for around 30 days, but it's free and if early enough in the season (April - June), you will have time to build them up for winter. The following assumes you have a second hive or someone who will donate a frame to you. 

           HIVE A: This is the colony without a queen
           HIVE B: This is the colony giving you a frame of eggs
    1. From HIVE B, remove a center frame
    2. From HIVE A, remove a frame with eggs, brood and larvae. Ensure it has eggs, this is the key. 
    3. Ensure no bees are on the frames before proceeding
    4. In HIVE A, put the frame from HIVE B in
    5. In HIVE B, put the frame from HIVE A (this isn't required, but fills HIVE B back to full frames)
    6. Wait 3 to 10 days
    7. Check HIVE A and look for the presence of queen cells or queen cups
      1. Queen Cell: IMAGE
      2. Queen Cup: IMAGE
    8. If you see queen cells, that's great! You'll have a queen in a couple weeks and with luck she will be laying eggs shortly after. 
    9. If you don't see queen cells or queen cups, you can try again, or introducing a queen.
    There is a small chance the queen is in fact still in the hive but not laying around the time of your last inspection. If you see capped and uncapped brood with larvae, there is a chance she is still in the colony. After a short period of time, she may start laying again. This can happen during nectar dearths (slowdows) so feeding sugar water can sometimes get her active again. 
Jason KardongComment