Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Worker layer

April 9th 2011, I posted about losing part of one of our hives to a swarm. When we went in- to inspect the hive we found a new little virgin queen. So we left them to grow with her.
Sometimes things happen to the queens. Year before last it seemed we lost a lot of our queens, while last year wasn't so bad. This year it seems we're losing them once again. I've checked for asian wasps and hornets, but can't be sure if they are around as I haven't seen any, but the bees have so many enemies that anything could have happened. Something could have gotten this particular queen during her nuptual flight. At any rate...she's gone.
When a hive is without a queen or eggs and brood the workers or "nurse" bees panic. A nurse/worker assumes the role of "Queen". All workers are females and they can all lay eggs, the only problem is the eggs aren't fertile and can only produce drones (males). Allowing this to continue in the hive will cause the death of them. Certain steps have to be made in order to keep the hive from dying.
one- You have to take all of the frames at least 30-50 feet away from the hive and bump ALL of the bees off.....this part to me is the saddest of all things for a beekeeper to have to do. You see, most of the bees that are on the frames are nurse bees, they either don't know how to fly yet or they haven't ever been out of the hive to know where to go back to, this is including the "worker layer". Unfortunately, they all have to suffer because you can't tell which one she is. IF, you don't do this and you leave her in the hive no matter how many queens or queen cells you put into the hive she will kill them because she is convinced she is the queen and the other bees are too! Even if they want to replace her they can't...they have no eggs! She will lay them some but they are no good! We learned this the hard way when we first started with bees, we ended up losing the hive completely.

You can click on the pics to enlarge.....

In this picture above you can really see where she is laying sometimes close to ten eggs per cell. Some of the eggs have hatched (they look like little c's inside the cell) and she's laying eggs in with them.
She even laid on top of the pollen.

two- You should always have more than one hive...even if it's a small one. When we have lots of extra sealed queen cells I carefully cut them off of the frames....
then I take them to my "Queen" hive and select a frame to put them on.
We have a very special hive I like to get the queens from because they are excellent producers of honey and sweet queens that make very calm bees.
I then scrape a small area of the comb away to very gently place the queen cell into it. No need to press her in there too hard....... and make sure you don't cover the slender tip up with comb. Once she's in there the bees will secure her in. It fascinates me how ingenious these creatures are!

Anyway, as I was saying...once you bump/brush ALL of the bees off and I mean all of them (even if you leave one on, it could be the layer) take them back to the box and put them back together, with your frame of queen cells OR a frame of brood and eggs. If you don't have queen cells they will make their own queen with new eggs from another hive.
Most beekeepers would just buy a queen, but the way I see it, is there is a 100% chance that the hive will except the queen that hatches in their hive (provided the worker layer is gone) verses a bought queen.
Nothing but a little time...and NO money spent, verses time in finding a queen...going to get her or waiting for her to money.....and did I mention waiting for the hive to except her...and if they don't....more time....and money.....

I do hope this post made sense to you. I tend to get ahead of (sometimes behind) myself trying to explain things. ;0)
I welcome questions and/or suggestions.....

Until next time....


  1. Wow, Julie. This is the most awesome post! I had no idea a "fake" queen could be successfully dealt with in a hive. You are amazing. GREAT POST! XXXOOO

  2. I have no idea what happened to my comment I posted on here last night!

    Anyway, thank you Penny for the sweet comment even though I wouldn't go any where near saying I'm amazing!;)
    I read about doing this somewhere I just can't remember where right now, but if and when I find it I'll let you know. It might have been in First Lessons in Beekeeping by Keith Delaplane or Beekeeping for Dummies by Howland was back when we first started with bees, so I can't be sure.

  3. This is fascinating! I never knew how much there was to know and learn about keeping honey bees.

    These are certainly extraordinary creatures. So glad you share them through you blog.

    Hugs XX

  4. Thanks, Julie! You do an excellent job with your explanation and pictures!

  5. Kim, If you're ever "in the neighborhood" ;) drop by you can have an up close encounter of our sweet pollinators! I know you would love them as much as I do!

    XXX Hugs!

    Julia! Thank you so much for the sweet compliment, LOL I had to reread over the post ;) And I thought of so many things I left out! I tend to "chase rabbits" as they say, when I talk or write.
    Maybe next post I can add...;)

    XX Hugs!