Brood frame full of pollen instead of brood

This year I tried something new to try and control swarming and reduce the need for inspections over the TT period – I removed the queens from both my hives before practice week (the queens were caged and new homes found for them). One week later I inspected the hives and as expected there were queen cells present (due to making the hives queenless the week before). In each hive I chose one good looking queen cell and removed the rest. The theory is that the new queen will emerge, mate and start laying – this can take up to 4 weeks or longer. It also means the hives can be left and no inspections are needed for a while.

I finally inspected them a bit later than planned due to being busy with other things – one hive had a small amount of brood and I found and marked the new queen – all good. The second hive had no sign of a queen, and I also noticed the brood frames were full of pollen and nectar where the brood would usually be. Otherwise all seemed ok – bees were calm and acting as normal. After a good look for the queen without success I decided to give them another week.

Today I took another look – still no eggs/larvae/brood. All the brood frames were full of pollen with what looked like a shiny covering of nectar or honey. The bees were a bit more flighty but not too bad. The hive has been queenless for quite a long time now and it looks unlikely the queen is there – either the queen didn’t emerge from the cell or something happened to her on her mating flight(s). If the hive is left as it is it will fail eventually – workers may start laying drone eggs and the colony will dwindle and die out.

If a hive is suspected of being queenless one option is to put in a test frame, which is a frame of eggs and larvae from another hive (with the adult bees shaken/brushed off) – if the receiving hive is queenless they should hopefully raise some queen cells on the frame. Luckily I have two hives so I took one frame of eggs and larvae from my other hive and put it into my suspected queenless hive. Hopefully when I next inspect them there will be some queen cells present which will eventually produce a queen and restore the colony to being queenright (fingers crossed!)

 

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