Back to top

Why your queen bee is not laying eggs and what to do

We all know that our queen bee is the heart and soul of a hive, and the hive, along with the whole colony, can die if she is missing, dead, or if she stops laying eggs. As beekeepers should know where our dearest queen is whenever we visit the hive, have you checked for your queen bee?

The egg-laying of a queen bee decreases and may even stop entirely during October or November, even if there are still pollen stores in the combs of the hive. During cold winters, the colony is put to the test. Under subtropical and mild winter conditions, the egg-laying usually stops.

You should begin to worry if it is not winter or colder months of the year and your queen bee stops laying eggs. Why is your queen bee not laying, and what should you do about t?

Why Your Queen Bee Is Not Laying Eggs

A colony of honey bees comprises a cluster of roughly 60 000 workers and a few hundred drones, with one queen bee. The one queen bee in the colony’s sole purpose is to lay eggs. The activities of a colony vary with the seasons.

The period from September to December might be considered the beginning of a new year for a honeybee colony. The condition of the colony during this time of year dramatically affects its prosperity for the coming year. During autumn, there is a reduction in the amounts of nectar and pollen coming into the hive. During this time, the hive reduces brood rearing and is diminishing the population of the hive.

Depending on the age and egg-laying condition of the queen bee, the proportion of old bees decrease in their colony. The younger bees will survive the winter, while the old ones will not make it.

When the nectar in the field becomes less and less, the workers drag the drones out of the hives and do not let them return. This causes the drones to die and reduce honey consumption, which the rest of the bees will need to eat during the winter. It is during this time when the queen will stop laying eggs. This is entirely normal, and the bees are just going on with their way of living.

Another reason your queen would stop laying eggs is that she is just taking something called a “brood break,” one way bees attempt to control the spread of brood disease. A queen taking a brood break is nothing to worry about, and she should continue to lay eggs shortly.

But what does it mean when your queen isn’t laying eggs, and it is not during September and December? Things tend to get a bit more complicated here. If you start to notice a lack of eggs and a lack of brood entirely, it could be the first signs of a queenless colony.

It should also be noted that you can have these symptoms in your hive even if your colony still has a queen. This happens more than you would think! Your queen may have stopped laying because she is no longer fertile.

What To Do When Your Queen Bee Is Not Laying

Once you have established precisely why your queen bee is not laying eggs, the next step is to do something about it. If it not during the winter, you can be assured that you are dealing with a queenless hive. First of all, do not panic! If you have not been negligent in your hive inspections, you have plenty of time to address this issue without any real adverse effects on the bees and their hive.

If you have more than one hive, you will be happy to hear that you will not be struggling with your queenless hive for long! You can give the queenless hive a frame from one of your other hives with at least a few eggs or a very young brood in it.

If your hive is queenless, it will start queen cells on that frame of brood right away. The only exception to this is when a hive has been without a queen for 30 days. The hive will then have loads of laying workers already that they will not start queen cells.

By that time, your hive will not only be queenless but will be completely broodless and very weak. Many of the foragers will abandon a queenless hive. However, this is not something to be too concerned about if you do inspections at least every other week to confirm that your hives are queenright!

Having To Buy A New Queen

So, in what situations should you let your bees make their queen? A naturally bred queen will have the advantage of having feral genes, which might make a stronger and more healthy colony. You might also increase the chance of this by taking brood from one of your best hives. This is a much more straightforward way to fix the problem, and it costs no money.

There are, however, some cases in which it will not work to give a brood to your hive or to let them make a new queen. In some cases, when your hive has been queenless for a specific time, you will have to buy a replacement queen because your colony depends on it.

We all know how to buy a new queen and introduce it to the hive. If you do not, go take a look at one of my previous articles, “Things to do if a queen bee is missing.” But there is a specific timeslot when a hive is experiencing queenlessness that you will be able to buy a new queen and introduce her.

Here is a timeline of queenlessness to give you a general idea:

Timeline Of Queenlessness:

  1. There is no brood of any kind, the population is weak, workers are laying, there are robbers, or wax worms are taking over. When you notice this happening in your hive, it has been queenless for too long to save. The best thing to do would be to shake it out, as it is a lost cause.
  2. There are capped drone broods only. Your hive has been queenless for under three weeks.
  3. No brood of any kind, but the population is strong. By seeing this, your hive has been queenless for over three weeks or at least 24 days. If your population inside the hive is still strong and you can see your bees have cleaned out a comb for a queen to lay eggs, you can introduce a new queen to your hive as soon as possible.

Remember, it takes a hive about twelve days to raise a new queen, and that queen another week at least to harden up and get mated. It then takes her another week to start laying. This is why it is so crucial for you to know where your queen bee is at all times and that she is present in your hive.

Conclusion

To sum this all up, making sure that your colony has a queen should be your number one priority during hive inspections. Catching a queenless hive early is vital to the survival of your colony. An excellent way to stay on top of your beekeeping is to take notes!

Try to keep records of what you see in your hive every time you inspect it. Doing this, you will not forget to check for eggs! If you discover that your colony is queenless, be sure to weigh out all your options and decide if you’d instead want to buy a queen or let your colony make its own.

Queenlessness is not a problem that goes away on its own!

Jaco Stander

My name is Jaco Stander. I’m from Cape Town, South Africa. I’m a registered beekeeper with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development in South Africa. Registration number WC808. I live on a small holding where I keep my 16 beehives. Taking care of bees is a very rewarding feeling, contributing to keep our bee colonies growing and thriving, and as a bonus, enjoying that sweet pure raw honey!

Recent Posts