Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Multiple Eggs in a Cell

If you've done any reading on queens you will most likely have read about queenless hives.

If a hive remains queenless too long then the queen pheromones that supress the ovary development of the workers is no longer there.  What can happen is a worker or workers can start laying eggs.  When this happens we have what's called a "drone layer".  A worker can lay eggs but since she has not mated and has no sperm, the eggs can only be drones.  It takes fertilization to create a worker egg.

One of the key ways to tell if you have a laying worker is if you see more than one egg in a cell.

I have seen this.  In fact, in a small swarm I once saw about 10 eggs all in one cell.  I've also watched a worker lower her butt into a cell to lay an egg.  Often the worker can't reach the bottom of the cell and so the egg is angled on the side.

If you see multiple eggs in a cell, hold on a moment before you take any action.

On two occasions I had a very small swarm move into an empty super in my yard.  The first time I saw this there were about 100 bees.  On the second occasions there were about 200 bees.  They were very diligent and started working right away and bringing in resources.  I checked them each day for the first few days and there was no queen.  After a week or so I saw multiple eggs in the cells.  I figured I had a swarm that was queenless and there was a drone layer.

A couple weeks later when I opened the hive I saw larvae in worker cells.  And I saw a queen!

Where had she been all that time before?  Since the bees were all located on only one frame the hive was easy to inspect.  She must have been off on mating flights when I checked the hive and rainy weather would have delayed her opportunities to get out for mating flights.  On both occasions with these small swarms it t took a good two weeks before I saw a queen.

I've read that new and inexperienced queens can sometimes lay multiple eggs in a cell until they get the hang of it.  I've also read that the workers can move the eggs.

So take note if you see multiple eggs in a cell but don't panic yet.  Give it a bit of time and keep checking to see if they do have a queen.

This hive that started with 200 bees has continued to expand rapidly since late last summer.  It's now a very active hive that's chock full of bees and doing very well.  In fact, it's time to do a split before they swarm on me.

Sometimes waiting just a little bit longer before taking action can give things time to reveal more about what is really going on in a hive.
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