Archives for posts with tag: queen

Supersedure cells in a top bar hive

UPDATE: It turns out these were swarm cells and half of these bees swarmed on Aug 7. I didn’t expect them to swarm this late in the season, but I guess the swarm instinct was strong.

Yesterday, I inspected my top bar hive. It had been a week and a half since I last visited them. The colony is doing excellent aside from some slight cross combing that is happening at the back, in the honeycomb. The queen is definitely very active and thorough with a great laying pattern and signs of brood in all stages of development.

However, on three of the bars that I examined, I found open supersedure cells like the ones pictured above. They caught me a bit by surprise and I’m not sure why they’re there. I believe I saw at least one larva inside these cells, but it was very difficult to see inside.

I don’t want to remove them, because I trust that the bees know what they’re doing better than I do. Perhaps the queen is maimed or very old. Otherwise, this is an extremely healthy colony. Perhaps these are just empty cells to be used in case of an emergency.


The weather in Ontario has been so beautiful this week that I was finally able to do a full bottom-to-top inspection of this hive.

When I first opened the inner cover, the bees were everywhere! They weren’t aggressive, but they had no idea what was happening. After a few minutes, they calmed down and got back to work within the hive.

The bottom board was covered with many dead bees from the winter and I believe they may have still been blocking the bottom entrance, so I brushed them all out and removed the entrance reducer that I previously had in place for the winter. I also removed 4 frames from the bottom box, as it contained old, dark comb. I replaced these 4 frames with new foundationless frames.

Working my way back up the boxes and frames, I finally spotted some brand new eggs. It was a great feeling to see tiny eggs after the winter, and to me, this has indicated that I can finally call this a successful over-winter. Better yet, on my 2nd-last frame, I found the Queen herself! She was just trucking along – doing her thing.

I’m very pleased to see such dedicated workers and a strong healthy queen after the winter. It definitely left me with a good feeling after the long, cold winter.

Queen Bee Closeup

Photo by Claire Woods used under Creative Commons

It may come as a surprise to most people – even experienced beekeepers – that when a queen bee mates with a drone bee from another colony, she is essentially having sex with another queen bee.

Well, perhaps this isn’t 100% accurate, but please let me explain…

To begin, it’s important to understand how drone bees are created. Drones are the male bees of a colony and their only purpose (as far as we know) is to mate with a queen from another colony. Drones hatch from unfertilized eggs. When the queen lays an egg in a cell, she dictates whether it will become a female (worker) bee by fertilizing the egg with sperm she collected on her mating flight. If she doesn’t fertilize the egg, it will become a drone.

Fast forward 24 days, and the unfertilized egg emerges from his cell as a drone bee. Since this drone was created without a “father”, its genetics are made up of 100% of it’s mother’s genes. The drone is a direct product of only the queen.

From this point, when a drone then mates with a queen from another colony on her mating flight, he is depositing sperm that contains the genes of his mother. It’s essentially as if the two queens were mating directly!

There’s probably a joke in here somewhere about women ruling the world, but us beekeepers already know that. 😉

Last week’s inspection went very well. My ladies were busy at work and had almost completely filled the first hive body with drawn comb, brood and honey. We added a second box to the hive to give the bees more room, essentially doubling their current living space.

During the inspection, Geoff easily spotted my queen. I captured a very short video of her with my iPhone. Without further ado, I introduce to you, her majesty, my queen:



A queen honeybee with a green dot on her back

Photo provided by Steve Burt and used under Creative Commons license.

Did you know that many queen bees are painted soon after emerging from their queen cells? There are two main reasons that breeders paint their queens:

The first reason queens are painted is because it allows beekeepers to quickly and easily find their queens on frames during hive inspections. More importantly however, the paint colour indicates the bee’s age. A typical lifespan for a queen bee is 2-5 years, so 5 colours were chosen as a standard and are cycled every 5 years.

For example, a queen bee born in 2012 is painted with a small yellow dot. Those born in 2011 were painted with a small white dot. Here’s a chart that can help you determine what year your queen was born:

Years that end with: Queen colour:
1 or 6 White
2 or 7 Yellow
3 or 8 Red
4 or 9 Green
5 or 0 Blue