Bees Don’t Read Beekeeping Books

Beekeeping books all agree: Queenlessness is BAD. Terrible. Very very extra bad and problematic.

Beekeeping books also pretty much all say that if you have a hive that goes queenless, it:

  • will be an angry, temperamental hive.
  • will stop bringing in pollen because there are no babies to feed.
  • will almost certainly develop laying workers within a couple of weeks.

Well, all the way back on March 26 I split Rosemary hive and created Sage. I was pretty sure (yeah, oops. I know,) that I left plenty of eggs in Sage hive for them to make a new queen from.

Apparently I didn’t, because when I went in to inspect a week later, there was no eggs and no open brood. No biggie – even if they had made themselves a new queen as expected, no chance that she would have been hatched, mated, and laying eggs that fast.

But today I looked again. It’s been a month. Sage hive has:

  • the same calm, friendly, “if you don’t hurt us, we don’t care what you do” attitude they’ve always had.
  • workers with full pollen baskets coming and going as normal, and lots of stored up pollen and nectar.
  • absolutely NO BROOD at all. No eggs. No evidence of laying workers. Nothing at all but wax, nectar, honey, and pollen.

So much for how a queenless hive is “supposed” to act. Still, though, it is a problem. Without a queen the colony will be dead in a few weeks.

We went into Thyme hive, which we knew for a fact was queenright, took out a frame with brood and eggs in it, and gave it to Sage. Theoretically they will choose one of the eggs and make themselves a queen with that. If I can find a local queen for sale in the next few days, though, I will just introduce her and then I won’t have to worry so much about them developing laying workers. Or, y’know, just dying outright.

Thyme had almost all of it’s frames filled up with brood. Problem: no place to store honey. Solution: build extra comb all over in random places. (We added another box and eight new frames for them to build into.)


Queen Thyme is the first MARKED queen I’ve ever had. See her there, with her pretty blue dot on her thorax? She’s also the first Carniolan queen I’ve dealt with. I’m used to my queens being bright gold – Her Thymeness is almost solid black.


The Hubs got a picture of Queen Thyme backing up into a cell to lay an egg. She is a busy, busy bee – she had brood all over the place.


The blue dot means she was born in 2015.

For the benefit of beekeepers who replace their queens every year or every two years, there is an international color code to designate what year the queen was born. For years ending in the digit zero or five, that color is blue. (If I had a marked queen that was born this year, her mark would be white to indicate that she is from a year ending in one or six.)


Another thing the books say is that, as long as the frames are all pushed together, bees won’t build extra comb in between frames because it messes up their bee space. Apparently, again, no one told them. This is Sage. They build where they want to.



One thought on “Bees Don’t Read Beekeeping Books

  1. 26th March seems very early to start splits (in UK at least) to raise a queen. Did you have drones? Did you see emergency queen cells? Judging by their good behaviour my guess is they have raised a queen but she’s not mated (yet). It’s only been a month – be prepared to wait another month but putting another frame of eggs in Sage to see if they raise a emergency cells would be a reasonable test. If they raise nothing (and you don’t have laying workers) you’re probably queen-right.
    Good luck!


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