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Supersedure question

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New Bee

Joined: 01 May 2016
Posts: 6
Location: Guilford, Connecticut, USA

PostPosted: Sun Jul 31, 2016 1:10 pm    Post subject: Supersedure question Reply with quote

Hello everyone,

Some background info:

Installed a package on May25th with a marked italian queen into a TBH. The colony built up rapidly building 14 bars of comb. I have opened the hive three times, once to inspect for cross comb on June 26th and then a second on July 16th. On this second inspection I observed three supersedure cups - two on the edges and one in the center of the comb. All were open. I also found a queen, although she is not marked as the original queen was. There were eggs present, capped and uncapped brood.

I tried to post a pic of the queen taken on July 16th inspection, but was prevented as I have not yet posted 5 times to the forum

I thought she was a virgin queen based on her size, lack of marking and the presence of the opened queen cells. I closed up the hive and left it for two weeks and inspected for the third time yesterday, July 30th. In this inspection, the bees were docile, there was lots of foraging activity and there were bands of capped honey and pollen. There was however, no visible eggs or uncapped brood. I did not observe a queen.

This is my first hive and I was planning on expanding to have 2 or 3 next spring, so I do not have bars of brood to place in from a different hive. My options are to hope that the new queen is in the hive and about to start laying, or to get a new mated queen. I could try to get eggs and brood from the local bee club (all langstroth hives though)

Given the time frame, is it anticipated that a newly mated superseded queen should have resume laying by now?

Should I immediately introduce a mated queen?

Thanks in advance for any advice offered.
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Adam Rose
Silver Bee

Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 589
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Sun Jul 31, 2016 10:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

First of all, congratulations on spotting an unmarked virgin queen ! That's not at all easy in my experience. I usually don't see the queen at all when I inspect.

You say there are no eggs in the hive. Are you quite sure ? New eggs are very small and quite hard to see. A cell with a new egg in it appears to be empty if you just quickly look at it. You have to stare quite hard and have fairly good eyesight to see a new egg at all. So it might well be that there are eggs in the hive but you just haven't seen them.

But the main point is that it can take a virgin queen quite a while to start laying. First of all she has to go on one or more mating flights, and then it takes a few days after that to get going. Depending on weather and availability of drones, it can take a few weeks to mate. So the fact that you don't see any eggs immediately is in my opinion nothing to worry about.

Another factor to think about is that a package is not a fully functioning colony. It's a queen with a rather random selection of unrelated bees. In a way. a supercedure is a natural way of fixing that. You now have a queen that is related to the bees in the rest of the hive. Introducing a new queen undoes the work the bees have decided for themselves to do. So unless you have a definite need ( eg, no queen ) then I would try to avoid going down that route.

What is the flow like at the moment, and what do you expect for the rest of the summer and autumn ? In my part of the UK, I can expect a strong flow throughout all of August and September, so there would be plenty of time to build up the colony before winter, which would be another reason not to worry about a queen that's a bit slow to get going.

I would give it a few more weeks before doing anything.

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Site Admin

Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1857
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Mon Aug 01, 2016 1:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with Adam.

Supercedure is something that I understand is quite common with package bees. I had assumed that it was because many of the queens produced for packages are artificially inseminated, which probably doesn't select for the best genetics from a bees perspective but perhaps Adam's interpretation of the situation is more valid.... nature is redressing the balance after Man's interference and they are rearing a queen who is "of themselves" rather than an outsider, although in reality she will still carry at least half of the old queen's genes.

When my bees swarm (which of course is a somewhat different scenario) there is usually an extended period of broodlessness....sometimes up to 4 weeks.... before the new queen comes into lay. During this time the bees stock up on stores but they don't work intensively and therefore live longer. There is already enough comb and probably nearly enough stores in the hive to survive winter, so there is no imperative to raise brood immediately. The brood break knocks varroa mite population right back, so the colony has a clean start with lots of stores ready to feed the new brood when it arrives. I call it their summer holiday.

I know it is nerve wracking to wait in case they produce laying worker(s), especially when you have forked out hard earned cash for your package and you only have one colony, but unless you have had really consistently bad weather since you saw that virgin queen or accidentally dropped her out of the hive, it is unlikely that she is not there and successfully mated, so I would wait a bit longer before you intervene.

Good luck whatever you decide and keep us posted.


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New Bee

Joined: 01 May 2016
Posts: 6
Location: Guilford, Connecticut, USA

PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2016 1:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the advice, it was much appreciated.

After a few days deliberation, I decided to requeen the hive with a local open mated queen. I noticed a few things that guided me to this decision. The hive had become more irritable. Bees were stinging me when I was quietly watching the entrance activity, which was something that had never happened before and the hive was emitting a anxious buzz that was unlike the sound it used to make. I throughly inspected the hive again (hate to keep doing this), and did not see any eggs or the queen. When I placed the new queen (in a cage) in the hive, the bees were not aggressive to the cage, and were communicating/feeding the queen through the mesh.

I inspected the cage after a couple of days, and the queen had been released, and I observed her on a comb (clearly marked). There were many many eggs. So I think that the virgin queen I spotted earlier failed to return from her mating flight and hence the hive were receptive to the new queen.

So I think all is well.
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Scout Bee

Joined: 04 Jul 2014
Posts: 304
Location: Uk/Horsham/RH13

PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2016 7:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is my first season with my own hives although I have been working up at my local BKA teaching apiary for two years.

I am beginning to think with my five hives and limited experience that having to see a queen should be very much secondary to seeing what the colony is doing.

BIAS including eggs are often quicker and easier to see than the sometimes elusive queen.

I have seen hives open for 45 mins with three or four people all looking for the queen and their report says 'BIAS but Q not seen'. Huh?

The bees will thank you for getting in, doing what you HAVE to do and getting out.
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