Rogue Queen in the Hive

Sometimes when a hive of bees arrives at your homestead, things don’t go as smoothly as planned.  In theory, your queen will come in a small container within the hive, and you simply remove the cork from the end and leave the candy blocking her escape hole.  The time it takes for the colony to eat through the candy will give them time to adjust to her scent and accept her as their queen.

The bees should want to swarm around their queen
The bees should want to swarm around their queen

What happened when my hive arrived was the queen didn’t appear to be alive in her container, however, the bees all immediately clumped together and this leads me to believe that our shipment had a “rogue” queen.  If you get a shipment of bees and the colony is acting as if they have a queen – clumping together, generally happy with their new digs – but they aren’t interested in the queen in the container, then you might have a rogue queen also.  That’s when a queen gets accidentally shaken into the package with your bees, and they accept her as their own.  In these cases, even if the container queen is alive, she is usually killed off by the hive when and if she gets out.

A friendly worker bee
A friendly worker bee

When a hive arrives with a dead container queen, if your bees seem content and are clustering, you shouldn’t have to worry about getting a new queen.  If they are flighty and disinterested, then you should contact your supplier for a new queen bee right away, to avoid the colony swarming.  If a queen dies after your hive is established, often bees will make there own.  Bees do this by feeding a normal honey bee larvae what is called “royal jelly”, and raising them in special queen cells.  The bees will raise several queens, but only one will survive.  A queen bee vastly outlives the rest of the hive, staying with her colony for over a year whereas worker bees only live about a month and drones only live long enough to mate with a queen.

Heading out to gather pollen
Heading out to gather pollen

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