queen bees

A virgin queen bee with deformed wings

Here is an unusual sight, one I’ve never seen before. This virgin queen, with severely deformed wings, was spotted by beekeeper James Burge in Santa Barbara, California.

James explained that he was doing a trap-out for a friend. He used brood, eggs, and worker bees from another hive in the trap box so the bees could begin raising a new queen while the trap-out was in progress. He said everything went according to plan except the workers raised a queen with deformed wing virus.

Useless wings

As you can see in the photos, her wings were totally useless. Needless to say, she could never fly or mate or be queenly in this condition. When James went to requeen the colony the next day, he couldn’t find her again. He wrote:

“I am not sure as to her demise but am pretty confident she was no longer in the hive. My best guess is she either died attempting her mating flight, workers pushed her out, or died because she was weak and had the virus. I am bummed I couldn’t find her because it would be interesting to have her for closer observation.

“When I added the new queen the workers seemed very receptive and happy to have her, but I guess you never know until you see eggs. I will check Monday and make sure they are all getting along.”

James also noted that he has not seen any deformed wings on the workers, but he plans to do a mite count as soon as the colony is strong enough.

Thanks for sharing your photos, James. This is a great catch and I’m so glad you shared it with us.

This virgin queen bee has severely deformed wings.

This virgin queen bee has severely deformed wings. © James Burge.

Both wings on this virgin queen are crumpled and useless.

Both wings on this virgin queen are crumpled and useless. © James Burge.


  • The colony in the trap out box raised this queen? Or the colony in the feral hive raised her and she was ejected from the feral colony into the trap out box?

    How was the trap out set up? Was there a mesh tube from the feral hive entrance to open air, or did they have to pass through the trap out box to reach the open air?

    It is fairly well documented that a colony suffering from severe mite infestation and the subsequent viruses to turn upon and supersede their queen. If DWV was prevalent within the feral colony, I hazard to guess PMS is also present to the point of where the replacement queen was badly infected with the virus she either crawled or was pushed from the feral colony to the trap out box- if all was connected.

  • Obviously the queen could not naturally mate, however I wonder what would happen if she was artificially inseminated? Her wings are only important when she swarms, so it’s just like a clipped wing queen. Could she pass on the deformed wing? Could she pass on an immunity?

    • Adam,

      She could definitely transfer the disease to her brood through the eggs. It’s called vertical transmission.

  • Wow, that is so sad … Poor queen 🙁
    I’ve come to the conclusion that bees have compromised immune systems just like many humans, due to a myriad of environmental factors and stressors …

  • Awful, wretched virus.


    Came home from work to find this queen on the ground in the apiary. There are 3 queenright hives there, plus two splits that had queen cells from different mother hives. She was closest to the nuc box that it would make sense for her to be from based on the timing of the splits (done 1 week apart).

    Not knowing what else to do we picked her up and put her back at the entrance where she promptly walked inside and seemed to be readily accepted.

    I’m worried that perhaps she has DWV and never actually took a mating flight. I can’t see any obvious deformity, but clearly she can’t seem to fly. If that were the case would she just walk back inside? Has anyone in the group ever seen a queen make it almost home and then need a leg up just for the last foot into the box? Of note, the mother hive of this split struggled with DWV over the winter, but the mite count was down to 2 a couple of weeks prior to splitting.

    I guess there’s really nothing I can do but take a wait-and-see approach and check next week if there are any eggs, then combine them with a queenright hive if none are present. Anything else you think that I could or should do in this situation? How long would you wait to check for eggs?


  • I’m not sure this is the right place to ask a question, or not…but here goes. I installed 2 new packages into brand new hives with undrawn out frames on 4/8/18. This past week we looked in on them both. To my surprise both hives had supercedure cells in them. Hive one had many, 8-10, all capped and no queen to be found. Hive two had some capped supersedure cells as well, but not as many, AND we located the queen in this hive. I might add that we saw uncapped larvae in both hives. A few days later, with the assistance of my son, who could actually see eggs if they are there, (I cannot) we looked in again. This time no queen in hive two either. Would you assume the queens that came in the package were defective? If the cells were capped one assumes the queen cells were at least 8 days old. It has been 5 days since we first saw them so the queen(s) could be emerging any day now. Is it best to wait and let them ‘do their thing’ or should we consider re-queening?

    • Bette Lou,

      That depends on you, really. If it were me, I would let them raise queens because I think you get better, more locally-adapted stock. But if you’re nervous about them not succeeding or taking too long, you might want to go ahead and re-queen.

  • Well count me in for 1 queen with DWV. I noticed a small group of bees flying close to the ground in my apiary yesterday and as I examined closer I saw a queen walking around. WHOAH!!! What/where/why/who??? Never saw anything like this before. Last week i had a swarm (green hive) and was expecting an emerged queen to be out and on her mating flight by now so sure enough this must be her. But her wings were obviously not fully functional so I assume she never mated in flight. I didnt know what to do so i scooped her up and placed her on the “porch” of my green hive (where I assume she came from) and after a few workers checking her out, she walked right back inside. I think I will have to go in there and remove her and re-introduce the queen I took out a month ago on a swarm control split.

  • Seen a bee who seemed lost. Looked closer and he had 3 wings. My banana squash plants have not produced anything and they have many flowers. What is happening?

  • This is my biggest fear right now. I had a swarm last week (Sept 9th) in my observation hive and though my departed queen left lots of brood (capped and uncapped) I have seen a few mites on my workers (3-4). I am petrified that any queen cells (of which I can only see one) have been infiltrated by mites. I’m hoping to treat them as soon as I see a queen, and I’m leaning toward the OA/glycerin strip method bc vaporizing this observation hive would be extremely difficult, but I am terrified that any queen that emerges will have DWV. How soon can I treat for mites after the queen emerges? Most of the brood the old queen left is now either hatched orcapped, but there are still a few uncapped cells. Any advice appreciated!

    • Sasha,

      I don’t actually know how the OA will affect a newly hatched queen, but if you are seeing mites on adult bees it is not a good sign. If it were me, I would treat as soon as possible.

  • I was called to a hive that was long overdue for eggs to show and was “acting” queen-right. Sure enough, same thing, queen with DWV. Just because it is a queen cell, doesn’t mean that those mites won’t be inclined to climb in with her before her cell is capped. They don’t have as many days to reproduce, but can still pass her the virus. Dang!! Don (Victoria B.C.)

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