honey bee behavior queen bees

Two queens in one hive

Although we are taught that two queens can’t survive in one hive, it happens frequently. It occurs most often when a supersedure cell hatches while the original queen is still alive. The virgin daughter hatches, mates, and begins to lay eggs right alongside her mother. This is usually a temporary situation, but it can persist for weeks or even months.

Based on my own experience, I think it happens more frequently than we realize. We often search for the queen and then quit looking once we find her—assuming there is only one. With that assumption, it is easy to miss the second one.

The photos below came from a hive getting ready to swarm. Many swarm cells were lined up on the combs and some had already hatched. It’s possible that one of these is a newly-hatched virgin. The more yellow of the two (the first photo) was both smaller and quicker, signs of a possible virgin. Although a hive usually swarms before the virgins hatch, cold and rainy weather may have kept the swarm from leaving on time.


The first queen I found in this hive. She was small with a light-colored abdomen.

The second queen was larger with a darker abdomen.

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  • Rusty,

    I need your help. I started with one colony last year. I was feeding sugar syrup in May and early June to encourage comb production. I pulled 11 frames of drawn comb that was used for the new splits, three splits with two frames and one split with one frame using grafted queens from my colony and the drones of a friend 2 hours away. I installed some medium supers with some drawn comb and some empty foundation. The bees have been drawing foundation and filling comb over the last few days. There are a few frames of the deep not totally drawn out. I have one split that was a little week so I decided to pull a frame of capped brood with nurse bees. So while I was inspecting the top brood box I discovered one frame with 4 queen cells. I have yet to inspect the rest of the box(s). In two cells there is two queen larva and the other two have cells laid. My problem is I do not know what to do as with only one hive last year the only amount of drones available are from my first existing colony.

    Of course these cups are right off the plastic foundation. My only option to cut them out is to cut out the foundation but I have no need for anymore colonies this year. I wouldn’t mind trying a nuc but I am concern about the lack of different drone stock. There there is the reduction in honey production.

    Please off suggestions.


    • Jeff,

      I’ve read your comment a few times and I’m still not totally sure what you are asking me. It sounds like you are concerned that the queen cells you found will produce queens that won’t have drones to mate with. Are you sure there are no other hives within a five-mile radius? If you are pretty certain there are no drones, you can just kill the queen cells. Just scrape them off the foundation.

      If you have queens for all your splits, I wouldn’t try to use the queen cells even if there were drones to mate with. It sounds like you are stretched pretty thin with all those splits. Just delete the queen cells and call it good.

  • Hey Jeff, I thought you found four SWARM CELLS on the bottom of the frames, not queen cups on the sides. I ain’t no expert, but if it’s swarm cells you’ve got, then it’s better to make a split. Right?

    • I found this post while I was wondering if I put a mated queen inside a queen cage inside a beehive that already has a queen for some days then released it will they lay eggs in the same hive?

      • Ahmed,

        Most likely, the workers will kill the new queen because her scent is different from that of the established queen.

  • I went in today to take a look. I found another two queen cups/cells with white in them. After closer observation I could not see any larvae so I decided to open them up. All I found was about 3 millimeters of royal jelly in the bottom. When I observed 3 of these cups on Saturday there were two with white stuff in them and one with an egg. When I went back today the two cells with the white in them were gone and so was the egg. In the bottom box I found another with white (for a total of four). I opened the one with white in it today and I could not find a larva. Immediately two bees began eating the liquid from the queen cup/cell.

    I really do not know what to think. On saturday after after discovering this I pulled pulled two frames of capped brood with nurse bees with brood on it and I installed two frames with just foundation. The bees are pulling the foundation as we speak. I’d rather not deal with a swarm at this point.

    Any thoughts on what is going on? I am wondering is removing all the extra nurse bees and brood and opening up space my have overted things (for a while). Also I saturday the frame with the white in them I lifted and turned over. I was reading and it said this may damage the larve.

    Thanks Rusty.

  • Hi Rusty,

    To continue the saga of the colony that I added together with the laying queen and the virgin queen. Well after it was all said and done I found the marked laying queen, great. But it appears that she is not laying well and I found supersedure cells to replace her. I found the virgin queen that was in the added box being balled. I guess they were trying to kill her and she is dead now.

    Back to the superseding. So I squished the smaller queen cells. Removed one frame with one queen cell and placed it in a nuc and left two queen cells into the original colony. I went in Tuesday, both cells are right next to each other and both have hatched. Saturday I went in to take a look and I found the marked original queen and very spotty and very little brood. So I started looking through the bottom box for any virgin queens and I discovered what looked like a mated queen but not laying yet. She was moving really slow like a laying queen abdomen was longer than a virgin but not fully filled out. So I think she was mated. Based on that I figured I’d go back in and find that marked laying worker and remove her. When I tried to removed her I couldn’t get a grip on her and she fell off the frame into the box. I tried to find her but I couldn’t get her on Saturday.

    So I went back in on Sunday. I couldn’t find the marked queen in the top box. So I pulled a frame in the #2 position and when I looked in the bottom board I think I saw a virgin queen booting along on the bottom board. Being stun I should have lifted the bottom box off the bottom board to see if it was a virgin but I wasn’t that smart. So I continued my inspection for the marked queen. I did not find her but I did find an unmarked queen sticking her abdomen into the cells. I think it was the queen from yesterday that I think was mated and filled out more than from the day before.

    The funny thing is both queen cells were opened from the bottom and were side by side of each other. Is it possible that if they hatched on Monday that they had a mating flight during last week and one was laying by Sunday. The weather has been awesome this week.

    Also is it possible that that was a virgin queen coming back from a mating flight as it was about 2 inches from the entrance into the colony when I observes what appeared to be a virgin.

    On a side note the queen cell from the frame I removed was hatched on Sunday, August 21st and as of yesterday I have not found her and she is not laying. I have added some eggs and day old brood with no queen cells begin formed so she is present.

    Those queens can be interesting and troubling.

    I need a good laying queen to get me through winter. The colony has two boxes of drawn comb and I have stolen a couple of frames of brood from other colonies to keep the strength up. I just need that strong queen to start laying for the next month to get them through winter.

    What a messed up situation.

    • Jeff,

      In the second paragraph you mention a marked laying worker (bold). Where does she fit in the story? I’m a little confused.

      It is possible that a queen hatched on Monday was laying by Sunday. It’s quick, but it’s possible. And, yes, it’s possible to see a queen coming back from a mating flight. They are hard to spot because they haven’t fully developed their queenliness yet, but I’ve seen them as well.

      Regarding the queen that hatched on Sunday the 21st: She may have gotten killed on her mating flight. Things happen. They get eaten by birds, attacked by other insects, get smashed by cars, get blown away–anything could happen. On the other hand, maybe she is just slow to get started. Even though the others were quick to get started, this one may just be slow. I wouldn’t worry about her yet.

      You are right, queens are both interesting and troubling. That about sums it up.

  • My marked queen (white dot) was failing so they colony was superseding. I left two queen cells in the colony. Both opened from the bottom. There was no swarm, that was on Monday August 22. I went in Saturday, August 27th and I observed the marked failing queen and then discovered what appears to be a recently mated queen (not virgin but not fully developed) slowly moving around and inspecting the cells. I tried to remove the marked queen at that point but I couldn’t get her off the frame and I thought she fell back into the colony.

    So I decided to go back in Sunday to remove her. When I went back in Sunday to remove the failing marked queen I could not find her, but I found an unmarked queen putting her abdomen into the cells. I assume it was the queen from the day before. But before I found this queen I thought I noticed a virgin queen streak across the bottom board.

    What are the odds those two virgin queens are still alive considering both cells were open from the bottom? Could both occupy that colony? The unmarked queen had the worker bees moving away as she walked and bees were attending on her.

    I was in Tuesday evening just before dark to look and remove the failing marked queen and mark the new queen. It was 7:00 PM (out of my circumstances) I couldn’t find the queen but there is one there as the colony was very gentle so I plan to go back in this weekend to find her. That being said I didn’t see any eggs either but I think it was really getting to late as dusk was fast approaching. So the eggs may be laid but I couldn’t see them.

    I think the colony may have removed this failing queen since the new queen is present as I cannot find the failing queen marked with a white dot.

    • Jeff,

      I have seen colonies with more than one queen and read about them as well. Sometimes it is a mother and daughter and sometimes sister queens that live together for awhile. As far as I know, this situation is short-term but it may persist for several weeks. I don’t know why it happens, but it does. Eventually, one queen will become dominant and the other will disappear. I have also read that it probably happens more frequently than we realize. Most of us give up looking for queens after we find one, so we are not even attuned to looking for more.

      As for eggs, remember that the colony shrinks in size as winter approaches so there are periods when very few eggs are laid. I checked all my hives recently, and I’m hard pressed to find eggs or brood in most of them. During spring and early summer we get accustomed to seeing eggs everywhere, but that just isn’t so during the rest of the year. In any case, you can’t rush motherhood. She will lay eggs when she’s ready.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if your white dot queen has been killed by now, or maybe she just died. The completed supersedure cells are a good sign she was failing.

  • Thanks Rusty,

    The goldenrod is only in the middle of bloom here and a couple of the other colonies are still laying really strong. So I was hoping the new laying queens would lay some eggs before winter.

    Today I have one of two commercial beekeepers coming to visit my yard today so we’ll do a good inspection at that point and look for queen(s) and eggs.

    I have a feeling the white dot failing queen has been made away with. The number of supersedure cells were not as pronounced as with the swarm cells in the other colony in the summer.

    I’d love to find the second newly mated queen in there. I have a friend that would like to replace one of his 2-year old queens.


  • Well Rusty,

    The white dot queen is deceased, the new mated queen is deceased and there is a virgin in the colony, which I proceeded to mark with a yellow pen. I assume the virgin took the new laying queen out of the picture. So now I am waiting for the virgin to mate as I see dead drones every morning on the landing board. Tick Tick Tick. It’s a race to the finish. For a virgin she is now skitting all around the frames like I have seen with other virgins. It seem like she is inspecting but you can see she has not mated. Hopefully this week.

  • The new unmarked queen was from that colony. It was one of the superseded cells. I left two in the box. Both hatched from the bottom. One mated, one virgin. Anyway the virgin is marked and the weather is supposed to be nice for the next few days, rain one evening. Daytime temps in the order of 18-24 C, for the rest of the week. Only thing is there are a dozen or so drones on the front porch every morning.

    • I still have loads of drones flying out of my foundationless hive, Jeff. If you’re really desperate to mate the queen, I suppose you could haul the whole hive to my backyard and hope for the best.

  • Rusty, when you say a two queen situation is usually “short-term” what does that mean? I want to assume it means the lesser quality (older?) queen will be balled or something. But I know with bees you can’t assume anything. I’m asking because I am curious if a two queen situation could incite the swarm impulse. I am 99% sure the nuc I purchased had two queens, but I’m completely baffled as to why it swarmed. – HB

    • Sooo interesting. From what I’ve learned and seen, two queens are usually short term because the queen that is being superseded is usually old and/or failing for some reason. As such, her pheromone levels are falling so the impulse to kill her is lessened. Instead of two hormone-laden women living under one roof, you have one and one-not-so-much. This is usually a mother-daughter combo and they can live in harmony for weeks or even months, the older one becoming less and less queenly as time goes by until she dies or is carted away.

      Some sources say this arrangement happens much more frequently than we might imagine. However, you are saying you got a nuc with two queens (entirely possible) and you want to know if the two-queen thing caused a swarm. Hmm. Good question. As you know, when you have two strong, viable queens one usually kills the other. I’ve never heard of two queens being the cause of swarming.

      The closest thing I can think of is this: Once I had a hive where I had been holding a queenless colony by using QMP (queen mandibular pheromone). I ended up combining that colony with another, and about a week later I hived a nuc in the box where the QMP used to be. (The pheromone had been removed and the box aired out.) About two days later all the bees were gone. Absconded, not swarmed, but I blamed residual QMP for the problem.

      So that is similar to queens in one hive. But in your case you say they swarmed, so I’m assuming half left with one queen and half stayed with the other? What if the nuc was ready to swarm before it was closed up for delivery (i.e. they had raised a replacement queen and were ready to roll). But since they were locked up and couldn’t leave, they just waited for an opportune moment? Is that possible?

  • The hive that the nuc was transferred into has foragers returning with pollen. I take that as a sign that there is a laying queen and that all is well. I suppose it’s possible that they are queenless and raising one from one of the few eggs we saw during the install BUT the original queen was captured in a photo taken during the transfer, and she’s NOT the one that went with the swarm. We saw a very different-looking queen in the swarm, so my assumption is the original queen stayed with the parent colony.

    I don’t believe the nuc was ready to swarm before it was closed up. The nuc was not crowded at pick-up. In fact, I feel the nuc was light all the way around. (Damn that autocorrect! WordPress keeps changing nuc to nut!) At any rate, there was spotty brood (that’s my untrained opinion) and a decent amount of honey/pollen on 3 frames. Most of the brood was capped, BTW. The 4th frame was barren for all intents and purposes.

    I need to ask the nuc producer exactly how he produced it. All I know right now is that his nucs were established for “over a month” before delivery. He’s perplexed, and offered to bring us another nuc. But now I have two colonies to tend to, which brings up another question. I’m feeding both honey. In-the-comb was easiest for me. Is that incorrect? Should I be feeding them thinned out honey?

    • HB,

      Honey in the comb is the best. I’m working on a post right now where I mention that. My colonies fed pure full-strength honey are thriving.

  • We are second year beekeepers and this year we put a queen excluder on, but when we went to pull the frames to extract, we had brood in the frames above the excluder. Can the queen get around the excluder or could we have two queens and, if we do, what do we do?

    • Fran,

      If an excluder gets bent even a little, the queen can often get through. Once in a while, you just have a small queen that gets through. Just cut away the parts of the comb that contain brood and extract the rest. I doubt you have two laying queens, but just go ahead and check for any queens before you cut away the brood.

  • my friend has a hive that had a queen, and he heard chirping from a queen cell and knew it was going to hatch. So he took the cell out of the hive and it did hatch. He is bringing it to me tomorrow. How do I split my colony and how do I add the virgin queen? This colony is a nuc I purchased mid April, and I provided them with drawn comb and extra honey. I think they are doing well. I think there is maybe 4 frames that have brood and bees on them, just from looking down into hive. I am thinking of putting 2 frames into each hive with drawn comb and some honey. Putting the queen in a cage with a marshmallow, and checking to see if she it out in 3 days. What are your thoughts?

    • Suz,

      Virgins are sometimes hard to introduce. It is best to give them all nurse bees and brood, no foragers. So when you split, leave the queen in the original hive and take some brood and the bees that are covering the brood and put them in the new hive. The foragers will return home. Then add the virgin in a cage. You can use a marshmallow, but I would rather leave her caged for three days and then release her manually.

  • Sorry for the duplication of messages. Also, I live in Pennsylvania and think they should have enough time to build up to at least 5 frames by fall, what are your thoughts?

  • Wanted to get your thoughts on something I haven’t seen before but after reading this, perhaps it’s not as odd as I first thought.

    Had a hive that failed to successfully requeen itself and had no more eggs to try. After about 3-4 weeks of being queenless including the time they tried to make a queen (they never developed laying workers), I introduced a marked queen. After checking, the marked queen was nowhere in sight but an unmarked queen was. There finally were eggs evident on a couple of frames. I thought I was in the clear. A week or 2 later I found supersedure cells, but left everything alone, wanting them to figure it out. The brood pattern was very poor and only present on 2-3 frames. I concluded the unmarked queen was poorly mated and the colony knew something was wrong.

    Fast forward a few weeks and all supersedure cells are gone. There is an unmarked queen present, but the brood pattern is nearly non-existent. Maybe 10-20 random larvae, uncapped, and capped brood and only on 1 frame. Queen was active, but clearly she can’t lay properly. At this point I decided to take 2 frames of eggs from a second hive to make a nuc in hopes of getting a properly-laying queen that I could then combine with the first hive after dispatching the poorly-laying queen.

    That 2-frame nuc didn’t survive because it was robbed. Bees 1, Beek 0. So yesterday I grabbed some more egg/larvae frames from the second hive, made a new nuc, and moved it away from the hives to try again.

    I then checked the first hive to confirm the poorly laying queen situation hadn’t changed. I found only 1 frame of 10-20 cells with larvae, uncapped, capped brood in them as before. However, I found 2 queens co-existing together in that hive. They both remained on that 1 frame of brood, walking past each other, touching a few times, all the while both inspecting cells. Both have extended abdomens. I didn’t think to take notice if they were backing into cells, but I don’t think so. I think I was too focused on the “you gotta be kidding me” factor.

    I’m at a total loss. I get that bad weather could negatively affect a queen on mating flights, but getting 2 queens that agree to live side-by-side and both have issues? That’s got to be some sort of negative record. Is there some other possible explanation?

    My plan now is to let the nuc (hopefully) make a laying queen over the next month. At that time, I’d open the first hive, dispatch both queens, put newspaper in there, and combine the nuc to get a laying, single queen, queenright hive.

    Was hoping to get your thoughts on my situation. I can send you a few pics if there’s an email available. I would have done that here, but I couldn’t find a way to do that.
    Thanks for your time and help.


    • Griffin,

      Multiple queens in one hive is not at all uncommon, and they can coexist for months. Most of us don’t notice them because once we find one queen, we don’t look for another. If the pheromone levels of both are low (it’s possible, especially if they are related) it’s even more likely they can coexist.

      Also, you can’t read too much into the appearance of supersedure cells. Some colonies routinely build them and take them down. So unless you’re following them carefully, it’s hard to know what’s going on. With new eggs, it will take a while to hatch a virgin queen, and then 2 to 3 more weeks before she’s laying. If you keep stealing brood from you other colonies to keep this one going, you’ll end up weakening all of them. So just be careful.

      Whatever you do, you should do soon because it sounds like your nucleus has been without a strong queen for quite a while.

  • Rusty,

    I made a split in July to stop a swarm. The nuc did quite well. It is now two 5 frames with two frames not completely drawn out yet. I was doing inspections today and assessing winter stores and came across my marked queen up top. While I was checking the bottom box for brood and stores I noticed a single queen cell on the bottom of one frame, capped, so as I saw the marked queen I removed it and opened it. It was empty. After I replaced all the frames and centered them up a large very fat unmarked queen climbed up onto the top bars, walked around as to show off, and went back down into the next seam. See was very quick but I got a good look at her.

    The nuc is boiling over with bees but it’s too late in the season to add new undrawn comb. Should I be worried about a swarm situation? The temps this week are going back into the high 70’s, or should I just let it ride. There is little to no nectar flow as its been so dry, but I do need to feed. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thanks, Jeffrey

    • Jeffrey,

      Do you have drones in your area? Without drones, the colony won’t swarm because a new queen could not mate.

      The other thing about swarms is usually the swarm leaves as soon as the virgin is capped but before she emerges. Bad weather can interfere with that, but it doesn’t sound like weather is your problem.

      It’s more likely you just have mother and daughter queens. From what I’ve read, this is fairly common but we usually don’t notice them because once we see one queen, we’re satisfied that we have a queen and we stop looking for more. I don’t know why they come about, but I’ve read they can peacefully coexist for months. Eventually one will prevail and the other will die.

      Anyway, that’s my guess. If it were me, I would just leave them alone.

      • Rusty,

        That is what I was thinking, thanks for the conformation, at worst I have two queens going into winter. I guess that’s not a bad thing. I’ll just keep a close eye on them the next few days, if they haven’t swarmed by this weekend they more than likely won’t, I hope, as I say with crossed fingers. Thanks again!!

  • I was looking at your website. I thought that I saw what looked like a bottom board that was made into 2 nuc with an upside down queen excluder and a super on top. If I were to do this would I be able to remove a queen and add a queen cell to one nuc with a queen hatching and mating? thank you

    • Hi Bert,

      Not sure what you mean by an upside down queen excluder, but I’m sure different brands are built differently. In any case, you can cover two adjacent nucs with a queen excluder and add a honey super on top. And, yes, you can remove a queen and give the queenless nuc a cell or just let them build one. If all goes well, she will emerge, mate, and begin laying.

  • Hi Rusty! After failing several times to get colonies from nucs to survive the winter, we finally had success with overwintering two colonies this year, both caught from swarms last year. We were really conservative and took no honey, but we also were slow to see what was happening in Spring when our colonies, each with a full deep of capped honey, started preparing to swarm. The first swarm lifted off 24 days ago. We inspected the hive right away and found plenty of eggs and larvae (which surprised us) as well as >10 frames with multiple queen cells each, and queen cups along the bottom of the upper frames with a just-laid egg in each. We really had no idea what to do but we split the resources in the hive 4 ways, as evenly as we could, with slightly less honey at the original site. Thanks so your article we also split the other colony similarly and moved the queen — who hadn’t swarmed yet but was definitely planning to — into a new hive, and she seems to be settled in well, no more signs of swarm preparations. We’ve seen nuptial flights from several of the new colonies we created with the swarm cells, but 9 days ago (so 16 days after the first swarm) there was what we thought was another swarm starting at the original site – except the bees were all over the front of the hive exposing the Nasonov gland and fanning, not flying away. Then they all marched in. At the time we attributed it to a mating flight with a lot of fanfare, since the foragers had returned to the original site and we’d seen similar excitement when the other queens returned from their flights on a much smaller scale. Well, 6 days ago (19 days after the swarm) – we checked out the hive & saw a fat queen scurry over the top of a frame, so we closed it up and left them alone, since our goal in the inspection was to see if they’d been able to make a new queen. The next day, the hive swarmed again. We inspected further after the 2nd swarm and the first thing we saw upon opening the top cover was a frantic virgin queen running around. We caught her and found another small (assuming virgin) queen on a frame. We introduced the first queen to a queenless colony and we spotted a mating flight from her new colony today – so that seems to confirm that she was a virgin, just emerged since today was day 5. We did end up catching the swarm and are letting them settle in, but we assume that the bigger queen we saw the day before is with them. Ok, so finally here’s the question: when we go back and do the math, we had virgin queens just emerging 20 days after the original queen took off, which doesn’t compute with the idea that the original queen left a virgin behind, so we’re thinking she left a second mated queen which would explain all of the eggs which were there when we inspected after the first swarm (since presumably the queen that went with the swarm would have tapered down on laying?) and the newly-hatched queens running everywhere after the second swarm, piping, we assume are from eggs laid 4 days after the original swarm left. There was even an open queen cell on the bottom face of a frame of capped honey – which definitely hadn’t been there when we did the split after the first swarm. Incidentally, we didn’t really see any eggs when inspecting this last time after the most recent swarm 5 days ago. Luckily we captured the second swarm, so we’re really curious to see their status once we let them get settled in a bit. Based on the strength of the colony and the impressive swarm preparations so early in the season we’re assuming that we had an original queen that allowed another to be mated (while temps were still freezing overnight) and then left her to raise a new generation of queens and swarm herself. Does this sound like the most likely scenario to you, or is there something we aren’t considering? We’ve definitely learned a lot, especially thanks to your posts and comments and are curious what you think. It has been so amazing to see several virgin queens go out and return from their nuptial flights, and the way our two hives are expanding into an apiary. We are so thankful for all of the information you share!

  • I had a honey bee hive in the top of a 60 ft cypress tree until hurricane Florence came right over us. We live 4 miles from Wrightsville Beach N.C. the 100 mile an hour winds brought it down and was exposed. Someone came and cut out most of the hive and rescued them but left some of the comb on one log and in a hole in another log, they left it and it appears that they are protecting a queen several hundred are in a ball on the piece of comb they do not seem to be leaving. Is it possible there was another queen?

  • A lot of sagas here. I have a long one too, but the short of it is that today I combined two hives that I had stacked vertically with an escape board between them (after several days of the newspaper method) once I discovered (to my untrained eyes) that one was queenless. After combining them, I took a closer look at one of the frames I removed from the queenless box and saw EGGS. A pathetic few and definitely queen-laid (not worker). So now I’m wondering what happens if I joined two hives–one with a strong queen and one with a dud queen? Did I ruin both hives?

    • Marty,

      If you combined a strong queen with a weak queen, the bees will most likely destroy the weak one. Check on them after a week or so.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I have three hives. Two are strong and one a new split from the mother hive, which is one of the strong ones.

    We just had a three-day attack on all three hives. I did what I could—new to this—reduced the front entrances, blocked off the back entrances. The strong ones seem to be back to normal. I am afraid to open them up to check on them.;

    The new split I closed up completely for the last of the three days and then two days after. I had to check on them because they were in the process of making a queen. She would have hatched in a week. I went in and saw that the queen cell had been torn apart. But I also saw two more queen cups that were not there when I put that frame of brood into it a week ago. Should I wait and see if they actually had brood in those queen cups? Or should I purchase a queen for that hive? If they continue to build the cell, that would indicate that they have larva in there, correct? Would they have made queen cups over empty cells while their queen was maturing? Was told if they have queen cups already, they might not be able to be reinstated into a stronger hive. I have opened their hive so they can get out and clean out which they were excited to do. There are not very many, but seem to have foragers. There is capped brood in there which should be starting to hatch out. I also had put 4 frames of capped honey in there for them, and am also feeding them spring syrup and protein patties.

    • Gail,

      Bees build queen cups whenever they feel like it, so don’t read too much into them. Unless they actually use them, they are meaningless.

      It sounds like your queen emerged and she is probably roaming around the hive waiting for a chance to mate. I wouldn’t do anything for awhile and see if she starts to lay.

  • So…here’s an interesting two-queen hive kind of story:

    My brother brought me 9 colonies recently because the city told him he had to reduce it to two. (Free bees – hooray!) They were all swarm captures or splits with queen cells from this spring, some just within the previous week. Two days after he brought them, I went through them to satisfy my curiosity about their contents and status. I also figured to mark any unmarked queens I found. In the second colony, a small one of just 5 frames or so in an 8-frame medium, I saw an unmarked queen. Didn’t notice any brood yet but the queen looked larger than a virgin to me and she was easy to pick off the comb, not real runny like virgins usually are. I grabbed her by the wings and carried her back to my truck about 50′ away to mark her with a glued-on numbered dot. As I transferred her to my left had to hold her legs, she managed to twist out of my grip, and buzzed away. Oh, well, they were free anyway, I thought after my initial consternated comments to myself. I went back to that hive and put the inner cover and top back on. The next day, I did a newspaper combine and put it on top of a single deep hive that I knew had a queen because I’d seen her the previous day when the other queen flew off. This other queen was one from last year by the green dot on her thorax, and apparently was a prime swarm caught earlier this spring. Three days later, I returned to remove the upper box and shake the bees off its frames into the lower box. Oddly, as I removed the upper box, I noticed that the newspaper was barely penetrated in one spot by a hole about one bee’s diameter in size, even though I’d slit it in four spots as I usually do. After 3 days I expected it to be largely gone but it wasn’t. Of course, the next thing was to inspect that upper box; the one whose queen had flown off on me. Well, on the second frame I pulled, I found an unmarked queen of the same color as the one that flew off, and now there were some eggs in a couple of small patches. I set that box aside and looked in the bottom deep box where the green-dot queen had been. She was present also. So, I put an excluder on the lower box, added a medium super, put another excluder on top of the super, and put the medium with the unmarked queen on top of the second excluder. I turned the upper box around so the entrance, which is via the notch in the inner cover, is to the rear, although at this point that may not be necessary.

    I have no idea whether these two queens are a mother-daughter pair or not, but there was no sign of fighting at all when I first removed the upper box – just a few workers lazily crawling around on the newspaper and one sticking her head through the hole in it.

    I suppose I can call this my accidental double-queen hive. Or, maybe my dumb-luck double queen hive. I’m pretty impressed by that queen’s ability to fly straight back into her own hive after foiling my plan to decorate her, but I’ll get her eventually. I’ll anesthetize her with my little CO2 contraption on my next attempt.

    • I frequently find more than one queen, so I don’t think it’s unusual. And like you noticed, they are usually not fighting.

  • Is it possible that multiple queens could be living side-by-side within the walls of my house? This is my first year as an official beekeeper, but I have been a be guardian for nearly 15 years. Honeybees live in my walls. This year, there is such a massive quantity of bees compared to my hive that I wonder if it’s possible that I have multiple hives in my house. Does this ever occur?

    • Christine,

      I think it is possible. I’ve often heard that mother/daughter queens can co-exist for long periods of time, but I don’t know how much research is actually available on this. I know that you can keep two queens separated by an excluder in one hive with a common area for storing honey, and the workers are fine with that. My guess is that if a colony is big enough, the queens will never come in contact with each other, so it could work like a double-queen hive.

  • I was in a hive which I suspected had swarmed a while back, so I was looking for young brood and only seeing capped brood. I instead found two queens fighting. I can go entire seasons without seeing a queen. I have never seen two in the same hive before. I take this as two queens hatched out before one could go around and kill all her sister-queens still in their cells. It was both very cool, and also disturbing, because they looked evenly matched, trying to sting each other. I caught one in a q-catcher and put her in a nuc box with two frames of mixed capped brood and honey from the hive she came from. I already had as many colonies as I wanted, but if one of the queens doesn’t come back from a mating flight I can recombine. But now I have TWO colonies I’ll need to check for young brood instead of one. Hey, I’m supposed to just suggest work for OTHER people. : )

    • Roberta,

      That’s interesting. All the times I’ve seen either two or three queens in one hive, they were all getting along like old friends. Maybe they were just putting off the killing thing.

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