Monday, October 4, 2010

My Sadness As A Beekeeper/Drone Laying Queens

I noticed something wasn't quite right with my two Nucleus (Nuc) hives that I had started a while back, so I went in for a check. At first glance I could see that there was WAY too many drones. I found the queen in each hive and she looked fine and I saw eggs, but what I found next was very disturbing. All of the brood was drone brood. Male honeybees.......this is NOT good in a hive. I had queens that had not been mated. Their eggs were not fertile and they could only produce male offspring. I had to make a very difficult decision. The queen had to be replaced :( I love my queens and I love seeing the new little hatchlings scurrying around on the comb looking in the cells to lay eggs. They are so sweet.Can you see that there are more drones than workers? The drones(males) are much larger and have bigger eyes than the workers (females)
In this picture below you can see the drone cells, there isn't any worker cells at all. Drone cells are bullet shaped and protrude up higher from the comb. Worker cells are even with the comb. If not caught the hive will perish, the males will eat them out of house and home, so to speak. Drones do not forage and they bring nothing to the hive to eat. They are just there to mate with queen bees. This was my dilemma, I had thought that if the hive had drones that a queen would mate. Please don't make that thoughtful mistake, a queen has to be in flight in order to mate.
This brings me to the reason "why" I had two drone laying queens. Those that follow this blog, will remember that I had a queen that had her right wings chewed from her sister that hatched before her. I called her my "Wingless" Queen, I thought I would be able to keep her and she would have her very own hive, that was not a good thing. Her fate had been sealed when she lost her wings before hatching.
The only reason I can think of that the second hive had a drone queen was because during her hatch we had some bad weather at that time, a lot of wind and rain and she wasn't able to fly during the night to mate. Or, if she did mate there wasn't enough drones in the mix. A queen needs to mate with at least 20 drones in order to have enough sperm to be fertile. This, I have read, is enough to last, she won't mate again.

I had to remove the queens, I pulled frames of fresh eggs from one of my favorite hives and placed them in each Nuc. They pulled out queen cells and now have new baby queens.....I do hope they mated. I'm thankful that the warmth has stayed here on us, even though the nights are cooling off, hopefully the queens have made their nuptial flight and will be able to produce big strong hives this coming spring.......only time will tell.

Until next time.......


  1. Julie, you are amazing. One of the reasons I hesitate to get bees again is I worry I won't have the time to stay on top of them like you do. You always know how each one of your hives/nucs is doing. That is so awesome. I did not give it one thought when you mentioned the queen with the torn wing, but now that you explain what you found it makes sense that she could not fly up to mate! Whew. They are SO lucky to have you as their bee mommy!

    I know how difficult it was for you to replace those queens. (((hugs))) I'm sure your nucs will thrive now. Why are you starting nucs? To expand or to sell? I would definitely buy mine from you if we lived closer :) Love ya!

  2. I started one of the nucs because I had a hive that had lost their queen and they were struggling after they had swarmed a couple of times. (we caught the swarms) but the remainder of the hive had dwindled down to just a few, I didn't want to merge them and it was still early enough at the time to start a nuc plus I had that hive with three queens. The other nuc I had started for a friend. He builds bee boxes for us and I start hives for him ;) But with this one lagging behind, I'll just try and keep them going until the spring, if they overwinter I'll pass them on to him.
    I'm wanting to get things in order in our garage so I can start making my own boxes. I miss being able to work and make my own stuff with wood.
    I would love to live closer to you!
    Love ya!

  3. Julie - that is so clever. I would not have known or thought about that if I had not read it on your blog. I have read so many book about beekeeping and not once have any of them mentioned that.
    This was quite a while ago - so I hope your hives with their new queens worked out OK
    Love Nicki

  4. Nicki,
    Was just looking back and saw your message. Thank you for writing! I guess I need to update~ I lost the smallest hive to robbing :( But I am pleased to say the other Nuc is very much alive and is thriving exceptionally well! It's been very cold on them so early this year but so far so good! I am very anxious too open them in the spring and see their growth! We are fortunate to live where the winters are somewhat milder than up North. Most days the girls are out flying and that's comforting as long as they make it back before the temps fall.
    Thank you again for dropping by!