White Hive Has Laying Workers

As I sit down to write this post, I have some very mixed feelings.

Let me step back and take it one thought at a time.

I checked on the white hive today to see if the 3 emergency queen cells we saw, or the two frames of eggs I gave them produced a replacement queen.

They did not use the two frames of eggs to make queen cells, and I hoped this meant that the queen cells we saw previously were effective replacements.

I looked through a few more frames, and then I saw eggs. My heart pounded with excitement. They had successfully re queened themselves I thought. The I looked closer, and saw 3, 4, 5, and 6 eggs per cell. A classic sign of laying workers. My heart sank.

Below you can see what laying worker eggs look like. Several eggs in each cell.
Laying Workers
Image Credit

I am sad to find that the white hive has laying workers so late in the season, and at the same time, a little frustrated that the bees failed to re-queen themselves.

I don't understand why none of the 3 queen cells we saw worked, or why they didn't use the two frames of eggs I gave them. I suppose there are lots of possible reasons though.

Earlier in the year, I had predicted that the white hive's queen wouldn't be around much longer, but I didn't imagine the bees wouldn't be able to replace her.

So what does a beekeeper typically do when they have laying workers? There are a couple of options, none of them really fool proof though.

One option is to keep providing the laying workers a frame of eggs each week until they decide to make queen cells out of them. I just don't have the time to do it now that fall is here and the weather is already in the 50's and 60's each night.

Another option is to get a new queen from a supplier, and shake the bees of every frame far away from the hive. This method shakes out all the bees onto the ground, including the laying worker(s). Then, allowing the foragers back into the hive with a new queen will prevent the laying workers from returning. The concept is that the laying workers might have never left the hive for orientation, and won't find their way back to the hive. This method is a lot of work, requires a new queen, and could possibly result in the new queen being balled and killed anyway.

I spoke to my mentor, and he said if it were him and since it was so late in the season, he would shake the bees in the white hive from two deeps down into one. Then let the hive sit for a day or two and then combine them with my remaining queen right (purple and blue) hive using the newspaper method. This would allow the combined hive to over winter as a 3 deep hive.

The purple and blue hive is so populated right now it's difficult to work them. There are bees everywhere! I suppose combining the hive wouldn't be so bad, since I'd likely need to split them in the spring to thwart off the swarming impulse anyway.

But that does leave me with a few questions though.
Q.If I combine the laying workers with the queen right hive, is there any possibility the laying workers will take over the queen right hive? I don't want my strong queen right hive to turn into laying workers!

Q. If I combine the laying workers with the queen right hive, will the queen right hive kill the laying workers?
Q. What do I do with the frames from the top brood box that contains laying worker eggs, pollen, capped and uncapped honey? Do I freeze them and then store them like I would empty supers?

Q. After over wintering the hives, will the bees in the spring time clean out the old eggs when I give them the frames?

If you have any experience with laying workers, I sure would appreciate any guidance. Drop your thoughts into the comments section!

Comments For This Post: (1) | Post Your Comments! Hide The Comment Form
Holly says...
Date:   September 9, 2011, 2:48 pm

When I first started reading this entry I was going to suggest the newspaper method mainly because it's so late in the season.  From conversations I have had with other beekeepers this past year is the pheromone from the real queen will overpower the laying workers and order will be restored.  Whether the laying worker(s) gets killed, no one really knows. 

I would suggest taking the frames full of capped brood, honey, and pollen into the combined hive.  Store empty frames.  With a large population you don't want your bees to starve.

As for the old brood that will be brought out next spring, I had two dead hives this spring with rotting larvae and frames covered in dysentary.  Some of the frames smelled really bad.  The introduced swarm and nuc cleaned everything up and I could even see old corpses being taken from the hive and dropped outside the hive.  It was pretty amazing to see one bee carry a white corpse about 20 feet from the hive before dropping it!

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