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I think my hive is queenless...what should I do?
First, does your hive have eggs or larva but no capped brood? If that’s the case, the hive amost likely has a newly installed, or reared queen, and the new queen is just getting started laying. If your hive has no eggs or larva, but does have capped brood, they are most likely queenless. Or, if they have no brood of any kind, again, they are most likely queenless. Here is what to do:
- Check for queen cells. Also see “Queen cells vs queen cups” to make sure you can tell the difference between queen cells (cells with developing larva/pupa) and emergency queen cups (empty queen cups). If you still see some worker bee larva and capped brood but no eggs (See Tips for spotting eggs & larva), you should see queen cells present in the hive. If you don’t see any larva, and there is little, or no capped brood, a virgin queen could have already been raised and hatched.
- Leave the hive alone for another week, then check back for eggs. If you don’t see any, give the hive a frame of brood (see here to learn how) and give them a new queen as quickly as possible. Check out how to install a new queen.
- Buy Queens Here
You can also watch the frame of brood you give the hive. If you make sure the frame you give them has eggs and larva, a queenless hive will quickly begin building queen cells on that frame using the new larva. That’s a sure sign the hive is queenless, and you can proceed to give them a new queen. See also “Requeening vs letting bees raise their own”
- If you do see queen cells, keep in mind it only takes the bees 12 days to raise a new queen when they start with a 24 hour old larva, so you don’t have a lot of time to replace the queen.
- If you already see capped queen cells, gently uncap one of them. If there is a fully developed white pupa in the cell, wipe out all the cells you can find, and you will need a new queen within 2-3 days, otherwise it will be too late and the new queens will begin hatching out by the time you get a new queen.
If you can’t get a queen that fast, don’t wipe out the cells. It’s not ideal (see Requeening vs letting bees raise their own) but it’s not the end of the world. If the pupa is already turning brown, it’s too late...they usually hatch within 1-2 days, and it’s very unlikely you could get a queen in time. Just leave them be. However, if the queen cells are still uncapped, you’ve got some time. Wipe all of them out you can find, and install a new queen asap!
Finally, if it is too late in the year for them to successfully raise their own queen, or for you to order a new queen, read “What if My Hive Becomes Queenless Late Fall or Winter?”