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Queen disappeared - what happened?

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fizzle 

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Hi All,

Earlier on in the season I got a caste swarm from a friend. We settled the bees into a new hive and added 2 full frames of honey to give them a boost. First inspection after 2 weeks went well and new queen was filling out frames with brood and all seemed well. The next inspection and 3 queen cells were discovered in the hive and no sign of the original queen but there was still capped brood.

My friend and I were at a loss to understand what happened as on the previous inspection we seen the queen and are pretty sure we didnt damage her when inspecting the frames.

Any ideas what could have happened? Is it possible that the queen was ejected from the hive for some reason. Only other thing I can think is she was taken on a mating flight but seemed like she was already fully mated due to amount of brood she was producing.

Still a mystery what could have happened but would be interested to hear what others think...
 

enrico 

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Hi All,

Earlier on in the season I got a caste swarm from a friend. We settled the bees into a new hive and added 2 full frames of honey to give them a boost. First inspection after 2 weeks went well and new queen was filling out frames with brood and all seemed well. The next inspection and 3 queen cells were discovered in the hive and no sign of the original queen but there was still capped brood.

My friend and I were at a loss to understand what happened as on the previous inspection we seen the queen and are pretty sure we didnt damage her when inspecting the frames.

Any ideas what could have happened? Is it possible that the queen was ejected from the hive for some reason. Only other thing I can think is she was taken on a mating flight but seemed like she was already fully mated due to amount of brood she was producing.

Still a mystery what could have happened but would be interested to hear what others think...
Depends when this happened and what is happening now. Was the queen replaced? Are there eggs and brood. Not enough info to give a reliable guess
 

Erichalfbee 

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Swarmed queens are often superseded.
 

drex 

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Were the queen cells capped? What were they like, swarm/supercedure or emergency? Did you leave the queen cells or destroy?
Hives rarely end up hopelessly queen less
 

hemo 

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The plan likely was hatched by the bees before they swarmed to produce a new queen when settled in a new place. The old queen may have been just that or possibly an emergency queen.
She may have been damaged during the last inspection or when closing up.
 
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madasafish 

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Who knows?
Damaged, not mated, mated but badly, too old, disease , wasps..
 
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Hi All,

Earlier on in the season I got a caste swarm from a friend. We settled the bees into a new hive and added 2 full frames of honey to give them a boost. First inspection after 2 weeks went well and new queen was filling out frames with brood and all seemed well. The next inspection and 3 queen cells were discovered in the hive and no sign of the original queen but there was still capped brood.

My friend and I were at a loss to understand what happened as on the previous inspection we seen the queen and are pretty sure we didnt damage her when inspecting the frames.

Any ideas what could have happened? Is it possible that the queen was ejected from the hive for some reason. Only other thing I can think is she was taken on a mating flight but seemed like she was already fully mated due to amount of brood she was producing.

Still a mystery what could have happened but would be interested to hear what others think...
Mmmmmm?..........
fizzle...The answer to your question is in your question (IMHO)......

You say a caste swarm? Well..... usually a 'cast swarm' is the second, third, fourth or even fifth swarm from the original colony and is usually headed by one, or indeed, more than one virgin/s. These cast queens are usually inferior and of very low quality. (by the way, once the swarm is housed, a 'battle royale' will commence amongst the virgins until there is only one remaining).

Going on.....The swarming instinct within the colony becomes so intense that the bees will continue to throw virgin casts to the point where the colony will become so depleted of bees that the original colony will often die out because the last virgin remaining is, once again, of very poor quality. (This is usually because these cast queens have been very poorly fed and are basically the 'crap of the crap' left over so to speak).
Casts nearly always end in total failure. Yes....., they will mate, (often very quickly) but once again, very poorly. Once mated, the queens start laying but because the queen is inferior in nature, the bees start swarm preps again. These queen cells by the way are usually supercedures in nature because the queen is not pumping out her full whack of pheromones (The bees know that she is a failure and are trying desperately to replace her). They are probably not 'swarm cells' but supercedure cells. (You don't say by the way).

I think that what has happened here (IMHO) is that the cast swarm that you were given was headed by a virgin/s. She settled into the box and then immediately took her mating flights. She mated and started laying (this is usually on anything between 2-5 frames and looking very positive initially) and then suddenly the colony switches into swarm mode again. What has happened is that the queen has simply run out of pheromones to the point where she's having difficulty in even holding a nuc together.
What happens next is anyone's guess. Do the workers ball her and kill her? Does she just abscond? Does she leave with a small quantity of workers (a mini swarm - my best guess by the way)? I've no idea. I only know it happens that suddenly the queen is not there anymore. By the way, as an aside, a cast will very often settle not very far from the original colony (a matter of metres) and will often settle outside the original box (or on another box in the same apiary) where they will stay for a very extended period. Again, why...I don't know.
I've picked up numerous casts in past seasons. Invariably, they have always failed by losing the queen and attempting to swarm again (usually after laying up 2-5 frames).

My policy now is that if I hive a cast, I find the virgin, kill her immediately and then unite the bees with a queen right colony.
If it helps at all..........
 
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fizzle 

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Hey All, thanks for the replies.

I'll try answer some questions. The reason we thought it was a cast swarm was because of the low number of bees. You can see them arriving at swarm trap here: Swarms

There were 3 capped queen cells in the hive when we discovered the original queen was gone. We kept the biggest queen cell however one of the other queen cells that we destroyed was at a more advanced stage of development than the other. The advanced queen cell was on one of the outer frames so like Heno suggests they may have been hatching a plan unknown to the queen.

Just to go back a little. I recall the weather turned bad for a week just after they swarmed and were rehoused and relocated. If the original queen was not mated before they swarmed then she may not off got the opportunity to properly mate. She still produced substantial brood in her short period as queen. I'm pretty sure she was not damaged on hive inspection but who knows!

Rockingod, thanks for your detailed and informative reply. I think it was a single queen with the swarm but cant say for sure. Once we spotted a queen we didnt look for another. I do like your theory that she ran out of pheromones as the rest of your analogy is correct from our observations. I think we looked for a body on the base of the hive at the time but didnt spot anything. As others suggest she may have been a temporary/emergency queen to tie them over until they got settled.

They have since settled in with new queen and look like they are now strong enough to make the winter. It's been a very poor summer but numbers have at least doubled without any feeding apart from the initial 2 frames some of which is still capped. I dropped in a feeder the other day and am hopefully they will make it through to next season.
 

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