Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A New Queen

We got a new queen from Graham's Bee Works in Morgantown, Indiana.    Rumor has it that they have good genetics and we were happy to get a queen at short notice.   She was already mated and determined to be a good layer.

We killed the old queen on a Tuesday, the drove up and got the new queen first thing on Wednesday.   I installed her as soon as I got home.  

Queens come in a nice little cage.   They usually have some attendant bees with them.   The white stuff on the left is candy.   

There are little corks on both ends of the cage.    You can direct release her if you take out the cork on the right.   Or you can take the cork out on the candy end and let the bees already in the hive eat the candy until they free her.    It takes a couple of days to eat the candy out and by that time they're used to her. 

It had been 16 hours since I took the old queen out, and by then the bees knew she was gone.   We figured they'd be happy to get another one.   Just to be on the safe side, though I opened the cage on the candy end to give them plenty of time to get used to her before she got out.

I put her upside down across the frames in the hive.

The bees took immediate interest, but did not cluster madly around her or act hostile.   This is a good thing. 

Then I put another box on top of her with the frames taken out in that section since her box stuck up some.  

Then I put the inner cover on.  Then the jar feeder on top of that with a super around it.  Then the top cover. 

And then we waited.

On Sunday [4 days later]  we inspected and discovered that she had not been let out yet.   A lot of the candy had been eaten but not enough to free her.

So we let her out.

And she promptly flew away.


[I'll just let that sink in for a minute.]


Yeah.   We were stunned. 

We watched her orient around the hive [flying in circles a few times around the hive] and then she was gone. 

The good news was that she did orient.   Bees do that so they can find their way back home.   We hoped that she wanted to come back.  

Why did she fly?    Possibly, she wanted to mate again.   Maybe she just wanted some air.   Who knows. 

We did a quick inspection of the rest of that hive and found about 24 queen cups including three capped queen cells.    This means that the hive was well on its way to making their own new queen.  

Even if the new queen never came back, they'd probably be just fine.    It would take three weeks for them to have a laying queen, but at least they'd have one.  

If the new queen did come back, then at the next inspection we'd hopefully find her and we'd find eggs. 

In the meantime, we decided to put a frame of eggs in from the other hive.   That would keep the bees busy raising brood and give them a little boost if the other queen didn't come back and they had to wait until their own new queen was ready. 


Flash forward to our next inspection 6 days later.  

We opened the hive and it was the quietest it had ever been.  This was significant because it was always a noisy hive.   Queenless hives often are very loud.  It's called a 'queenless roar'.    As new beeks, we didn't know whether the bees were loud because they didn't like the queen or because it was hot.   

At any rate, this time the bees were quiet.   We were hopeful that this was because it was finally a queenright hive. 

One of the first frames we saw looked like this.

Those bump outs at the bottom edge are queen cells.  

The arrow is pointing to a queen cell we found with a larva in it.  

This means that they're still interested in making a queen. 


We looked through the rest of the frames and did find a queen.

A queen!

Yay!    Pause for celebration!

We also found some eggs

We did the math and the queen we found had to be the one we got from Graham's.   She came back. 

We found only one of the previous three capped queen cells and it was in tatters.    The other two were already completely gone.  

We're curious to see what happens to the queen cell in the previous pic.   Will they cap her? 

We'll inspect again in a week and let you know. 

Our other hive is booming!   They have 15 frames with comb and they're drawing new like crazy.    There is always a traffic jam at the entrance to the hive.   They've gone through a quart of syrup every two days for the past week.     Thank heaven they're doing so well.   They provided two frames of eggs for the weaker hive during the queen drama. 


  1. yay!! you finally have a new queen!!

  2. The kids and I enjoyed reading this together...So glad your queen came back!

  3. Hello Robin - Someone stopped by my blog today and recommended in a comment that I follow yours. :) So here I am.

    Very interesting post! (I read the "killing the queen" one first.) I'm not sure if we'll ever consider keeping bees, but I do enjoy reading about people's experiences. Thanks for sharing yours!

    Looking forward to future posts. :)

  4. I read the "And she promptly flew away" part and was stunned just reading it. I kept reading, hoping you would say she came back, and you did!

    I've heard from an old man in our local beek club that had a simmilar experince. He released a queen from a queen cage, she flew up into the air, and he caught her by removing the hat from his head, and scooping her out of the air.

    I've always thought if I saw it happen before me, I'd be immobalized in disbelieve that it happened.

    Glad she came back!


    Show Me The Honey Blog

    1. Christopher, thanks for telling me about that other beek's experience. The hat trick is a great idea. We were both immobilized with disbelief, too, and we were under veils, so no hats available, but next time, we'll take an extra hat with us.


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