Bees are extraordinary creatures of nature. Without them, we, along with nature, are useless. Beekeeping is beneficial to the well-being of our beloved bees. But there is one nightmare that could happen to any beekeeper: The queen bee is missing.
There are multiple things you can do when you have made sure your queen bee is missing. The most common thing you could do is to buy a new queen for your hive. You can also let your bees make a new queen, assuring your next queen will have the right genetics and survive your local climate.
Whatever the specific reason may be, if your colony doesn’t have a queen, it’s doomed. You need to make sure your queen is alive and well at every inspection. Stay with me, as there are a few things you can do when your queen bee is missing.
Looking For Your Queen Bee
The queen bee looks a lot different from the other bees in your hive. She will be longer than your average working bee and will have longer legs to make it possible for her to back into a cell and lay an egg at the bottom.
When you are familiar with your queen bee’s appearance, you will spot her more easily when examining your hive. It is good to examine your hives at least once every two weeks to ensure the queen is alive and healthy.
It is very time-consuming to look for the queen, and it could be nearly impossible to see her. One effective way you can be sure that your queen is healthy is to look for newly laid eggs. The eggs look like tiny white specks at the bottom of the cells.
This is an indication that your queen is alive and laying.
How To Handle A Queenless Hive
Your queen bee plays a vital role in your hive because she is the only female with fully developed ovaries. The queen has two primary purposes. The first one is to produce chemical scents that help to regulate the unity of the colony. The second purpose is to lay a lot of eggs.
Without a queen bee, a honey bee will still be able to complete its expected adult lifespan for four to six weeks. However, the colony he belongs to will only be able to live for six weeks to a couple of months unless the queen is replaced.
When your queen bee is missing, you have two choices: letting the colony replace the queen or introducing a new queen to your hive. When you decide to let the colony create a new queen, it must have occupied queen cells or cells with eggs.
If there are eggs available, the worker bees will take some of the eggs and start to raise a new queen. When the virgin queen hatch, she will take flight, mate with drones and then return to the hive. She will then start to lay her eggs inside of the hive.
Remember, the colony has to have eggs to create its own queen. Older larvae or capped brood are too late for a developmental stage to be transformed into new queens.
If there are no eggs available for your colony to raise a new queen, you will have to take matters into your own hands. It would then be best to order a replacement queen from a beekeeping supplier.
Ordering a queen bee is a much faster solution than waiting for the colony to raise a queen. If you order a queen bee, she will already be mated and ready to produce brood. There are a few advantages of ordering a queen bee.
Your new queen be is sure to be fertile; it provides you with a fast solution to having a queenless colony. The ordered queen bee guarantees your stock’s quality. The only disadvantage to purchasing a new queen been is to introduce her to the colony.
Introducing A New Queen To The Hive
As soon as you received your queen, you have to introduce her to your colony, which can be a little tricky! You can’t suddenly put her in, she is a stranger to the colony, and the existing bees are sure to kill her. Introduce your queen slowly so that the colony has time to accept her and become used to her scent. Here are three simple steps when introducing your new queen to the hive:
- Remove one of the frames from the brood box. Try to pick a frame with little or no brood because any brood on the frame will be lost, as you will not be using this frame again for a week.
- Shake all the bees off your chosen frame and put it aside for the following week.
- With the frame removed, create a space in the center of the brood box. You will have to use this space to hang your queen’s cage.
Always make sure that you remove the cork from the queen’s cage to expose the candy plug. The candy end should always face upwards when hanging the cage. This way, all the attendant bees that die in the cage will not block the hole and prevent the queen from getting out.
Leave your bees alone for one week, and then you can start to inspect your hive to determine that the queen has been released and that she is laying eggs.
Why Would A Queen Bee Go Missing?
There are several reasons why your queen bee has gone missing. A healthy queen bee’s lifespan is between one and five years. There are, however, things you can do as a beekeeper to ensure a healthy colony with a happy, healthy queen bee.
The most common causes of a queen bee’s sudden death are disease, predator attacks, or a beekeeper error.
Beekeepers who experience queenless colonies checked on their hives 8% less than they should. This is why observing is a huge part of owning your own hives. When you don’t remove queen cells often enough, you are 78% more likely to have a queenless colony.
When you don’t do maintenance regularly on your hives and notice you have lost a queen bee, it could be because of diseases and poor management. Maintaining and cleaning your hives are an essential part of beekeeping.
Beekeepers who have more specific beekeeping equipment added an entrance reducer. These hives experienced queenlessness 78% more often than others. It is a considerable decrease, and any beekeeper who struggles with a queenless colony is advised to add an entrance reducer.
There are no reports thus far on any queenless hives that are equipped with a queen bee excluder. This could be a good indicator of the effectiveness in hives that has existing queen excluders.
Last but not least, some bees actually kill their queen themselves. If the queen is producing hungry, lazy, and sterile males, then bees from the hive will decide to kill her. Killing the queen allows one of her daughters to become the new queen, producing reproductive male heirs.
Ways To Protect Your Queen Bee
As you now know what to do when your queen bee has gone missing and what the reasons for her disappearance might be, you may be wondering how to protect your queen. To reduce queen loss, you can try the following methods:
- Checking on your hive more often or regularly.
- Removing queen cells if you are satisfied with your current queen.
- Cleaning your hive more often.
- Using an entrance reducer
- Using a queen bee excluder
- Providing medication to your bees when it is necessary.
- Splitting your hive only when it is needed.
The worst possible thing that could happen after a queen dies is that the worker bees do not succeed in raising a new queen. A colony without a queen can not survive for long. The absence of a queen bee affects worker bees’ behavior, often making them aggressive or agitated.
The worker bees may lay eggs, but they will be drones because they are not fertilized. Drones do not collect any food or do any work, so the number of productive bees will drop until the entire colony disappears.
The whole colony will become stressed and highly vulnerable to pests and diseases. The only way for you, as a beekeeper, to save a queenless colony is to introduce a new queen from outside of the hive.