As a follow up to last week’s reminder, I should have also included reference to using a rapid feeder to feed your colonies. 

A rapid feeder on a wooden hive is placed on top of the crown board, which has a feed hole, inside an eke and under the roof.   On some poly hives, a rapid feeder is basically a deep tray which is placed directly under the roof on top of the colony with a facility for the bees to access the syrup without the danger of drowning. However, this is really for bulk feeding when necessary in the autumn.

Using a rapid feeder at any time of year does mean that there is no need to open the hive when topping up the feeder.

So, moving on did you perform any splits or artificial swarms earlier this year?
As the bees started to swarm earlier this year, maybe your virgin queens have now mated and you need to check that this has been successful.
How do you check?  By inspecting the brood box where you are looking for eggs and/or larvae and/or sealed brood - depending on how long since the swarm/split took place.  If you see any of these that’s potentially good news and it looks as though you have a queen right (Q+) colony.
However, there are still a couple of things to consider.
Firstly, eggs.  Where are they in the cell?  Is there just one, or more?  The eggs should be at the bottom of the cell and there should only be one.   If there are a number of eggs it is possible that you have a laying worker.  But if there are also many eggs that are single and correctly placed, the multiple eggs might just be the new queen getting into her stride.  If they are laying workers, the pattern of eggs will be random, not in the usual brood pattern, and this topic will be covered in a later reminder.
Secondly, sealed brood.  Are the cells capped flat - indicating worker bees, or are the cells domed - indicating that the queen is laying drones and needs to be replaced.
If you have a laying worker or a drone laying queen you have to take action and have a number of options.  These suggestions are assuming there are still a good number of bees in the Q- colony and that both colonies are healthy - do not do it otherwise.
If you have another colony:
  • do you have strong colony with a queen cell that you can cut out, remove and put into your queenless (Q-) colony?  At the same time remove a frame of sealed brood (minus any live bees) to put in with the queen cell that will emerge to boost the number of bees in the colony while waiting for the new queen to emerge, mate and start to lay.  
  • no queen cells?  Select a frame with eggs and sealed brood that you can put into the queenless (Q-) colony.  This will give the bees an opportunity to select one or more eggs to raise a further Queen, and the sealed brood will emerge and help to maintain a level of bees as above. 
  • the Q- colony could be combined with a strong Q+ colony.

For either of the first two options - make sure you replace the frame in your Q+ colony with a frame of foundation/drawn comb - bees will fill gaps with comb attached to the hive roof - not recommended!


If you don’t have another colony then purchasing a new mated queen may be your only option unless a beekeeping friend can help with a queen cell or test frame. If the number of bees is low then with a laying worker the only real option is to shake out the bees and let them join another colony.

Did you take a look at our Asian Hornet ID cards?  They are worth distributing among your friends/family/colleagues as we need the help of everybody to protect our native pollinators.

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