Today, whilst on holiday, I helped a friend with beekeeping on the other side of the country. A swarm that had been hived several weeks ago showed no sign of having a queen and was making the usual queenless moan, so my friend decided to raid her grandson’s hive, half a mile away, for a frame with eggs and young brood so they could rear a new queen.
Grandson’s hive had only sealed brood and we saw a few queen cells. The queen was not to be seen although she was marked on 6th June; there were queen cells to be seen on 25th June (I’m getting this from the record card which is an adapted version of the one with my name on on Dave Cushman’s web site: Beekeeping and Bee Breeding) when the marked queen was seen but thought to be sluggish.
One of the queen cells, not a particularly big one, had a hole in the side. We could see the white, red-eyed pupa. Workers were attacking it, removing and consuming limbs. Then the whole body was removed. There was no sign of Varroa mites either on the body or in the cell, so it wasn’t Varroa sensitive hygiene that we saw in action.
Then, on the next frame, we saw the queen. Not THE queen, but a different one as she was unmarked. The conclusion is that the bees have superseded the queen and perhaps she had stung her sister and potential rival through her cell wall.
We took a frame with sealed brood and a sealed queen cell, replacing it with a frame with foundation, and took it back to square one to insert in the middle of the cluster. We just hope that the new queen hasn’t stung this one also.