bee biology

When will a newly emerged queen begin to lay?

Queen-bee-Pixabay photo

Queens don’t begin to lay immediately after emergence. They need time to mature and some may require multiple mating flights. Beekeepers must be patient!

A first-year beekeeper e-mailed to say he was excited to see a new virgin queen in the act of emerging from her cell. But that was three whole days ago and still no eggs! He wanted to know when his queen would begin to lay, or if he should replace her.

Queen bees need to mature and that takes time

My answer? Holy guacamole, give the woman a chance! These things take time. Newborn babes do not start mating and carrying on for at least a few days.

As a matter of fact, according to M.E.A. McNeil in The Hive and the Honey Bee (2015), a new virgin queen does not become sexually mature for five to six days after emergence. A number of things need to happen before she is ready to fly. Like all insects, the outer layer of chitin covering her body must become hardened and thickened, a process that may take several days. In addition, her pheromones must develop so she will become attractive to flying drones.

Multiple mating flights are common

Once she is sexually mature, the workers escort her out the door on the first sunny afternoon in the 60s or above. She flies to one or more drone congregation areas where she will be pursued by hoards of drones. If all goes well, she will mate with a dozen or more, and then return to the hive, guided by workers waiting for her return.

Sometimes, however, the number of matings from one flight is not sufficient and she must repeat the mating flight once, or even several times until she has collected enough sperm to fill her oviducts.

Once the oviducts are full, the sperm migrates from the oviducts into the spermatheca, the long-term storage place for sperm. This is accomplished by a series of abdominal contractions and may take up to 40 hours. Any extra sperm is expelled from her body through the sting chamber and now the queen is ready to begin laying.

Count the days before she lays

Looking at the math, we can see that if everything went as fast as possible, the queen could begin to lay as early as 8 days after emergence:

5 days maturing + 1 day mating + 2 days sperm storage = 8 days

But that almost never happens. More typical would be:

6 days maturing + 4 days mating + 2 days sperm storage = 12 days

But toss in a week of rain and it might look like this:

6 days maturing + 4 days mating + 7 days rain + 2 days sperm storage = 19 days

In fact, many people believe 2 to 3 weeks (14 to 21 days) is a good rough estimate of the emerge-to-lay timetable.

Many risks and lots of days

All of these numbers assume that everything turns out right in the end: the queen didn’t get eaten by a bird, get caught in a rainstorm, or remain hive-bound so long that she became a drone layer. Any number of things can easily go wrong.

And that’s only part of the waiting game; once the first egg is laid, it will take three weeks for a bee to emerge. So be patient with your bees and think before you replace that new brand-new queen.

Honey Bee Suite

Expect a newly-emerged queen to begin laying eggs within two or three weeks.
Queen honey bee. Expect a newly-emerged queen to begin laying eggs within two or three weeks. Pixabay photo.


  • Ideal conditions happen quite often. If I don’t see eggs in 10 days, I get very nervous. If the queen starts laying at 14 days, she never turns out good for me and workers usually replace her on their own soon after.

  • I have two questions. 1. Does anyone sell a frame open brood? I know why would you do that? Tthe reason for the silly question is I want to do a trap-out but being a first time beekeeper I have no open brood. I did a trap-out last year and did very well till fall and lost the hive to yellowjackets. So question two is related to question one. I have a nuc coming May 1 about how long will I have to wait to get a frame of brood from that? Or should I do that at all with a new starting hive? I have two feral hives to trap, one I need to get the bees out and seal up the tree for the person. But the second one I would like retain some bees in it to allow it to grow stronger and not lose the whole hive. If that makes any sense? Just like to hear what your thoughts on this would be.

    • I see this is an old post, but a nuc includes frames of brood and resources aka honey-pollen-beebread. A box of bees does not.

  • Very nicely put. I’ve always said 15 days for a good average. One more thing maybe should be added, some new queens don’t like being disturbed in the first few days after mating. When disturbed to soon, the risk of absconding is high.


  • Hey Rusty,

    Unbelievable, am prancing back and forth in the maternity ward as we speak. Did a five frame nuc split and on the 10th of April she was born. It’s now 9 days later and will be checking this Saturday which would bring me to 13 days.

    I’ve been watching the entrance and observed minimal pollen stores coming in which tells me she hasn’t started laying as of yet. I use the hive entrance observation method to determine the overall health of the hive with minimal disturbance. Anyhow, those numbers are right on the money. Fingers crossed 🙂


    • Tonybees,

      When I first read this and saw “maternity ward” I was really worried about you! Then I got it. lol

  • Rusty,
    Terminology? Isn’t it preferred to say that eggs hatch, adult bees emerge? Sorry to be nitpicky, but it must make a difference or there wouldn’t be both terms.
    Old teaching habits die hard…

    • Nancy,

      Yes, you are absolutely right. The problem I have found with new beekeepers is they often think emerge means “walk out of the queen cage.” Newly-hatched seems somewhat more obvious than newly-emerged even if it is not technically correct.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I am a swarm catcher. I remove unwanted swarms and relocate them to bee farmers. I am staying in the city and have 2 hives in my backyard. I envy you people that can inspect your hives so often. Once my neighbour at the back got stung by my bees and threatened to report me. I had to sell the aggressive hive. A long story short, I got now 2 hives again. I can only do my hive inspections when my neighbour is not at home. He visits his grandchildren 3 days per week and that gives me some time to inspect my bees. I made myself a one-way drawer which I hope to install tomorrow between my honey super and the brood box. Once the honey is harvested I slide out the one-way board and slide in a board with a 40mm hole in the centre so that the bees can move freely between the honey super and the brood box.

    I enjoy reading your blog. Regards Barny.

  • I find that, in general, people think they need to replace a queen at the drop of a hat. I try to teach my mentees that an excellent queen can still be a poor queen when placed into a poor hive. Queens need a lot of support to do the job well. If you have a queen that does not appear to be “pulling her weight” while having many resources at her disposal, then it would be appropriate to replace her.

    For example, you have a struggling hive with few frames of bees, minimal brood, food, etc. You decide to replace the queen because it must be a queen issue. You buy a $35 queen with high hopes, put her into this hive with few bees and little food. A few weeks later, the situation appears the same. Did you buy a dud queen? Unlikely. New beekeepers (and even experienced ones) seem to forget there needs to be a critical mass of nurse bees to care for brood. The queen can only lay as much as the existing bees can care for–if there are few nurse bees, then there will be little brood.

    Beekeeping is ongoing education not only of the public, but other beekeepers. Always appreciate your efforts Rusty.

    • Anna,

      This is an excellent and often overlooked point. The best bricklayer in the world cannot a build a thing without a supply of bricks and mortar, yet we expect honey bee queens to be magicians. I have pulled what seemed to be underachievers from poor hives and dropped them in stronger hives where they shined. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Somewhat related, and the other place I find myself over-anxious on occasion, how long after a swarm is captured and re-homed does everyone wait before they expect to start seeing eggs?


    • Tim,

      In a normal swarm that contained the queen from their previous hive, I would expect to see eggs within two or three days.

    • It depends. If it is the prime swarm, within days because the queen is the mother of the colony and is already mated. If an after swarm, the queen is likely a virgin which will need time to mate then start laying. Could be several weeks.

  • I just installed my bees 2 days ago so I’m just about to check the hive to see if she’s out of her cage. This is my first time so I’m like a new dad showing people photos of me releasing the bees, the hive and so on. Now I’ll be pacing for another 2 weeks or so to see if she is laying eggs. So the release is like false labor with a 2 week wait until the birth lol Thank you for the info!

    • Tom,

      No, no! You misunderstand. A virgin queen fresh out of her cell takes that long to start laying. Your queen that came with your bees is already mated. She can start laying as soon as there is some comb to lay in.

  • Hello, I’m on my 2 year of beekeeping, this is my first time commenting, but this is always my first source of info when needing to do some research. My question is, I just split the seasons first hive a little over a week and a half ago. The hive was fairly docile at the time of the split. Now, the bees are extremely aggressive. Aggressive to the point where just about 10 minutes ago, I walked out into the garden and was stung 4 times at a good distance of 20-25 feet from the hives. I know bees can be feisty when queen less, but this is beyond feisty. I’ve never seen bees act like this. It could be that we’ve had a few days of heavy rain, but today is warm and sunny out. It’s highly frustrating. Any suggestions?

  • Just placed a swarm from my bait hive into a 10 frame hive. My first try at a catch using Swarm Commander. Only took 3 days and thousands of bees. It was in a tree about 10 feet high. I left the hive at the bottom of the tree. The question is I want to move it to a sunny spot on the same property about 50 to 75 yards. My wife said that this move will confuse the bees but I think that the bees are smart and will be ok. I plan to move when it is still dark and put some grass/weeds on landing board after the move.

    • Vince,

      You will definitely get foragers going back to the original location. I would lock them up for a few days after the move and obstruct their entrance to force them to re-orient. Even then you will probably lose some. You should always move captured swarms as soon as possible.

  • Rusty,

    I just want to tell you how useful your site is. You explain things well and your articles have helped me make a decision concerning my hives.

    I’ve learned more from your site than any book or bee mentor. Your articles are so full of info.

    Thanks again,
    Robbin- north eastern maryland

  • In two weeks will all the nurse bees become foragers? Who will be looking out for the larva when the queen actually does start laying? I think I’m on about day 9 right now.

    About two weeks ago I did a hive check and found way more bees then I was expecting and a number of swarm cells. I did a split and put a number of the frames in the nuc with swarm cells but left one frame in the main hive with swarm cells. I read through your blog and saw about taking out the queen and putting her in the split in order to really satisfy the swarm urge and tried to find the queen but couldn’t. Two days later she left with a big workforce, about a week ago. Now I’m waiting for both hives queens to start laying. Next time I’ll definitely make a swarm split by removing the established queen and putting her in a nuc or setting up another hive.

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

    • Matt,

      The bees that are now nurses will become foragers. In the meantime, new bees will emerge and will become the new house bees and nurse bees.

  • I’m starting my 2nd year and have been reading your site for a while – it’s been quite a help. Thanks!

    My question is pretty simple — While the hive is making a queen, is there a concern of lack of open brood triggering laying workers? Do I need to routinely add more brood to prevent that?

    I had the opportunity to actually see a swarm fly overhead to take up residence in a tree. I began trapping them out 5 days later. I gave them a frame of brood/eggs to get them started. They took to the new hive and have 2 queen cells going. Given the time needed for queen cell cycle, maturing, mating, etc before there are eggs (2-3wks + cell time), I’m wondering if I need to provide additional brood/eggs during this time to prevent laying workers. (I lost my first hive to laying workers after a failed supercedure following a swarm – chalk it up to inexperience.)

    Sorry, this was way longer than expected. Would appreciate any help. Thanks!!!

    • Griffin,

      Swarms usually have a queen. Most times it is the old queen from the original hive. Sometimes it is a virgin. Usually, there is plenty of time to get the new colony going without the addition of brood. This is because the queen’s pheromones also play a part in suppressing worker ovaries. From what I’ve read, it is not as powerful as open-brood pheromone, but it can do the job for a while. But the addition of open brood certainly doesn’t hurt if you have it available. It helps the new colony grow faster if nothing else.

  • Thanks Rusty.

    Since I’m trapping them out of the tree, they don’t have their queen in the new hive (she’s still in the tree). But if I understand your response correctly, I should be good without adding additional brood for the time it take them to raise a new one. Just to be safe, I’ll be sure to check for eggs and will add brood if it appears neither of the cells returned a mated queen.

  • Hi there. I recently did a split, and at last check the new queen was laying. Very recent, because there were only eggs, no older brood. From what I could tell the pattern didn’t look that great, and i was wondering, is there a time period for the queen to start laying well? Or if she isnt great early like that, is she likely to be poor? I’ll wait it out, and see what happens, but i thought maybe there was some rule of thumb to go by.

    Thanks, keep up the great info!

    • Tyrel,

      Like I always say, give the lady a chance. Yes, it takes a while for her to get into her groove. In the beginning, she may lay multiple eggs in one cell or she may skip cells entirely. Patience is a virtue.

  • My hive swarmed 35 days ago. (May 7/8th) There are no eggs or brood present in the hive yet. Would one wait longer or requeen? I am not sure if they still have time to produce a queen if I put in a frame of brood. The frames are nice and shiny, cleaned out, but nothing in the brood box. They did leave some honey areas here and there. Suggestion? The bees are calm when I open them up to check, they are not feisty, so I am assuming there may be a queen in there, but I am not sure how long to wait it out until it’s too late to do anything. Thanks !

    • Debbie,

      Five weeks is getting up there. It is possible it could take that long, especially if you had long stretches of bad weather, but the possibility of things working out is getting slim. Laying workers are going to take over unless they get a queen or open brood very soon. If it were me I would re-queen as soon as possible.

  • Thank you. I will go and purchase a queen and get her in there before it’s too late. I appreciate your quick response. This is one of the websites I visit daily ! Thanks for being here for all of us.

  • Rusty,

    My math and question ….
    5/7 or 8 swarmed; 6/18 is 41 days from swarm date; 5/29 w/mean ‘last worker emerged’; 6/01 w/mean ‘last drone emerged’; 6/17 new queen;
    (6×7=42 days the bees live in summer (6 wks estimate); minus 18 days since last emerged brood; leaves 24 days left to brood out before old bees die; so that w/mean that all bees w/be gone (dead) by the time the new brood w/hatch out; (need 3 days for bees to release Queen, then 21 days till brood (or 24 drones) (if all goes purrfectly) that means we have approx. 24 days …. which is pushing way too close.

    Would it be advisable to take a few frames of brood from another hive and add weekly until we get some good house bee numbers? or would you take a few frames immediately and put them in there. I will be opening hive again in seven days to see about new Queen.

    are my figures correct? advice? Thank you.

    • Debbie,

      I think your numbers are fine. I wrote a long post on this exact subject about three years ago, but I took it down because there was so much disagreement that I thought I must have made an error somewhere along the line. It turns out that a colony in a stress situation like this has ways of coping. For one thing, bees revert from forager to house bees in order to keep things going, and these bees tend to live longer because they are protected within the hive. I should work on the post again as it is an interesting subject.

      That said, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to add some brood to boost the population and protect the colony from laying workers. I would probably do it sooner rather than later, but that’s just a personal preference.

  • Rusty,
    Thank you for the information. I will peruse the article. I put the new queen in. The bee inspector is coming on Friday to help me add some brood. He wants to look at the hive numbers and see what we can do. I find it fascinating that they will revert to house bees. I will keep you posted.

  • I caught a swarm a month ago in a new hive with old comb and lure in it. I moved it to its new location within two days, and placed branches in front to force some re-orientation. It was a small swarm, but after a month it doesn’t seem to have grown. They built one new comb next to the old one, partially, and through the view window I can see uncapped honey. Not much change in population. I wonder if they are queenless? Could I have moved the hive while she was out? I did it in the evening after they were all in. Thoughts?

    • Fritz,

      It is possible you are queenless, but maybe not. Remember that a swarm will get much smaller before it gets larger. Even if the queen starts to lay the first day, it will be at least three weeks to see new bees and, during that time, other bees will be dying. Sometimes the smaller swarms have virgin queens, and that will take much longer to get going. If it was a virgin, she could have died during a mating flight, but I doubt it was due to moving the colony, especially at night. Have you opened the hive and looked for eggs? That is what I would do.

  • It’s 2017, and I just landed on this post, after experiencing the same issue Debbie had. My hive swarmed May 7, and on May 19 was queen right… today, I checked in to look for eggs, and not only did I not have a queen, but I found 1 capped supercedure cell. I added a frame of ELB to the hive, and ordered a mated queen to be dropped off tomorrow.

    My question is after this long being queenless, should I expect my need to accept her quickly, or wait the usual 3-5 days before checking?

  • I have moved my nuc colony into a full sized National, 5 frames plus a dummy board. The cheap feeder had leaked when I was away and proper contact wouldn’t fit in nuc. Queen was due to emerge 3 days ago but we have had our usual wet Irish weather. Reassure me! Please will I have upset my virgin queen? P.S. great to read shared problems. Thanks Rusty lol from Ireland

    • Noreen,

      The wet weather won’t delay the queen’s emergence, but it may delay her mating flight. As shown above, if all is perfect, she could begin to lay in as few as 8 days, but with lots of bad weather, it could take several weeks. The leaky feeder won’t matter. They probably cleaned up what they could and let the rest run out. Honey bees in nature encounter worse things every day. The scariest part of all this is her mating flight. If she gets eaten by a bird, then you’re in trouble.

  • Rusty,

    I am a new beekeeper. I had a hive last year, but it failed to make it through the winter, so I purchased a new nuc in the spring and I installed it 4 weeks ago. I left it for a week to establish itself, inspected it, couldn’t find the queen, or see eggs but that is nothing new for me as I take a while to see the queen and I find it hard to see eggs in the open cells. I decided it leave it alone for two weeks and was just about to come back and inspect when I got a phone call that my bees were on a nearby shed! I ran over with an empty hive box and some old frames, with the hope of catching them. I inspected my old hive which still had approximately 50% of the bees still in it. It looks like two open queen cells, a lot more drones than I had seen before, two honey-laden frames, but I still couldn’t find a queen, two frames were completely empty and they hadn’t expanded beyond the 4 original frames that they had come with. I did a bit of rearranging of frames and established a bait hive with a lemongrass/beeswax mixture, approximately a foot away from the hive [swarm?] on the shed.

    Well, it seems my bait worked and after a week the hive [swarm?] moved into the new super; when I inspected my old hive, they are finally interested in the new frames, building new comb etc, but I still cannot find a queen and I get the impression, no laying is going on!! Any ideas what happened so early in the game with a new nuc and should I wait a few more weeks to see if the queen is there and laying before I consider a new queen? I’m beginning to wonder if I even got a queen 🙁

    • Missy,

      This is hard to understand, let alone answer. But the swarm would have left the original hive with the old queen. You said you saw queen cells, which sounds right. Once the virgin queen emerges, it will take, on average, 2 to 3 weeks for her to begin to lay.

  • I just checked my super, where I assumed my swarm had disappeared to, due to large flying frenzy and a lot of activity going to and from the super and it is almost empty :(, a couple hundred of bees at the most, but my old hive, seems to have grown in numbers, but still no queen and I can’t see any eggs, no capped brood, just lots of nectar and pollen, but lots of new comb building.

    • Missy,

      At this point, I’m not sure what is going on with the bait hive. It may have attracted scout bees for a while, or if there was honey in there, it may have been robbed. New comb in the old hive is a good sign. Use the timeline above to see when you should expect to see eggs.

  • Thanks for the great site and all the work that goes into it.

    My hive swarmed 24 days ago. On checking it today there is no sign of eggs and the bees, which are normally pretty easy going, are very irritable. Am I getting to the point that I should be either recombining or buying a queen? Or is there still enough time to be waiting for the new queen to lay, or alternatively give them a frame of brood with eggs so they can make a new one? We’ve have had a run of bad weather lately that has just lifted.

    • Erik,

      You’re getting a little on the long side. If I had a frame of open brood, I’d give it to them to ward off laying workers until I could get a queen. Otherwise, recombine.

  • 100 percent sure of queenless Italian colony. 3 queen cells capped 2 weeks ago (minimal capped brood then only). Installed open brood frame yesterday (6/25) from Carniolan hive (no capped brood on queenless colony) , How long should I wait to inspect? Also, I took a frame from a Carni harem and inserted it into Italian hive. What happens if they need to raise a Carniolan Queen? I just end up with 2 Carniolan colonies? I don’t mind, just want to know. I think I saw a virgin queen yesterday, but due to her speed, was unable to get a real good look. Went through both brood boxes and only saw a few drones. Shouldn’t there be like more than 4 in a double deep colony? I have no idea what happened to this queen, but they have been building queen cells since the install. They came with pretty bad dysentery, I really didn’t think they would live through it. My seller said it was that way with all the hives and they knew beforehand. Treated with Fumagilin B as per sellers instructions. Thanks Rusty. Seller very reputable, bees from CA.

    • Janet,

      At the end you say, “My seller said it was that way with all the hives.” Define what you mean by “hives.” Are you saying all the packages came with dysentery? Then he told you to treat? And now you’re saying he’s “very reputable?” You lost me back at “came with dysentery.” I would demand a refund.

      A queen cell stays capped nine days, add roughly two weeks to that before you begin looking for eggs.

      You say, “What happens if they need to raise a Carniolan queen?” Why would they need to do that? You’ve lost me again.

  • I believe she is thinking too fast and typing too furious … my gist is that since she put the Carni brood frame into the Italian hive that they would be making a Carni queen and not an Italian queen . (the ‘need’ part I believe was just the wrong instance of the word) .. me thinks ! My other thought is that the package bees had Nosema and she treated; if the pkg bees in fact have Nosema then that means the queen is gone with the wind, thus, it is only reasonable that the bees would be making a queen pronto because they know the queen is sick and will not last …… I had a pkg come w/Nosema this year as well, the bees made the queen cell w/in a few days of being hived, the queen had laid a bit, but disappeared within five days … so I think that is what she’s talking about here. Some pkg bees do come with dysentery and I believe that is because they have been pkgd, in transit for who knows how many days, and thus, cannot relieve themselves, then when hived, they just run out and start pooping all over the place. This season I saw numerous hives with new pkgs that looked stained in this fashion, in fact, one I hived myself with a student, ended up that we both were covered with bee poop because the bees just could not wait to go. I did not treat these hives, instead, I fed them well, gave them a good quality pollen pattie and requeened the hive. The hive settled down the following week w/not much of a problem. Fumigillin, I believe, causes more problems than it helps.

    Also, this year is bad for queens. If she received her package during the April 18th week, the bee queens were not properly mated or poorly mated. I found this year that a lot of people had to replace their pkg queens w/in a few weeks, because the queens just disappeared, or they left and did not make it back. My belief is that early queens just are not mated well because of the fury to get them processed and sent out to the pkg distributors and trucks. Further, queen breeders have been wiped out because of weather. It is getting harder and harder to find a good, quality queen. Believe me, I have tried. I ended up making my own queens, and even then, some did not make it back from mating because of this or that reason.

    All in all, this is not a good year for bees that came in packages in some instances. It’s been one queen loss after another for pretty much everyone. I hear people standing in line at the bee place talking about their queens just flying away when they opened the hive or being gone, just disappeared.

    Anyway, Rusty, I thought this might help you clear up what the girl was talking about. I could be wrong, but it’s my gist of things. Gotta think like a beginner .. ha ha ! They have no knowledge of proper terms so one has to think back to the golden days before knowledge and everything falls into place ! (lol)

    Maybe you can answer her intelligently this time…. hang in there .. it’s only July ! Luv your posts ! even the one about catching anything in a swarm trap ! too funny.

  • Rusty, the beginners need you MORE than the experienced beekeepers, so, you have to stay and do the best you can. I know deciphering is sometimes hard. I still use improper words now and then when the word just doesn’t come to mind. Working with beginners keeps one on their toes. Hang in there girl, you can do it! Today is another day! Enjoy.

  • Hi Rusty,

    Great post! I’m a first year beekeeper and recently had a number of swarm cells in hive 1 appear. I tried to subdue their urge to swarm by adding more room using an additional brood box above them. At that time I removed one frame with swarm cells for a split and after finding the queen I destroyed what I thought were the rest of the swarm cells.

    On my latest inspection I noticed that I had missed two cells which seem to have hatched out and although the hive hasn’t swarmed yet and I spotted new eggs but not the queen, I am left wondering what my best course of action is? Do I leave them to sort it out or is there action I should be taking?

    On a side note the cells in my nuc have also hatched out and I’m waiting 14 days to check again for new eggs.

    • Mathew,

      Generally the swarm leaves as soon as the queen cells are capped, so the old queen is gone before the new ones emerge. Bad weather can change that, but that’s how it usually works. Are you sure the cells hatched and were not opened by the queen? If it were me, I would probably just let it play out since it seems unclear what is actually happening.

      • Rusty, I’m not 100% certain they were not opened by the queen. They appeared as if the cap was just gone and the contents were empty.

        The funny thing is during my inspection I saw what I believed to be a young virgin queen although I may be mistaken on this as well.

        I think part of the reason they are so keen on swarming could be that they have an abundance of foundation to work with but not a lot of drawn out comb at the moment leaving them feeling cramped for space. Does this seem a likely scenario?

        I’m in agreement, I will let it play out and check back in another 10 days or so and hope for the best.

        Thanks for your input!

        • Mathew,

          Cells opened at the tip with a nice neat round opening emerged by themselves. Cells with holes in the side were killed by other bees.

  • Had a hive go queenless. Very few bees left…maybe enough to cover half a frame. Installed new queen but she must have died. There is a queen cup with an small larvae so she must have laid something before dying. So we are at least 20ish days from fertility.

    Already seeing a few wax moths, tons of ants, etc. Aka Clean up crew is here.

    It is July in Texas (HOT). Any chance she makes it, mates, and there are enough bees left in 20ish days to even care for brood that she lays? Seriously so few bees. I am leaning towards shaking it out and donating drawn comb to strong hives.

  • Last weekend I checked my hive. There were supersedure queen cells in the middle of the frames in the center. All of the brood that was there a couple weeks before was mostly honey. Still a good number in the colony, but only a couple dozen capped brood.

    I had noticed more drones around the hive lately, but haven’t noticed them cluster.

    I worry that I won’t have time for the queen to be ready to lay more brood before the current population runs it’s course.

    Should I wait another week before looking inside the hive? I do walk to the hive daily to check for activity.

    • KaytiDid,

      Were they completed queen cells or were they merely queen cups? Queen cups are often built and torn down without any intent to supersede. On the other hand, a lack of capped brood could mean the queen needs to be replaced. You can check on the colony, but it will probably manage to produce a new queen if it needs one.

  • I just came across this wonderful site! Almost 3 weeks ago, a bear attacked my hive, scratching out three frames and in the process the queen was killed. I only know this because no new eggs have been laid. The bee supplier is out of queens and said at this point, let nature take its course.

    I noticed that there were 2 queen cells being developed in the frames. Four days ago, the bees swarmed and landed in a small tree just around 10 feet away. My husband and I were able to get them into a new hive setup.

    I have looked at the queenless hive and it is packed with nectar. I had put a super on in hopes that the bees would spread but they stayed in the brood boxes and filled them nectar. I saw the empty queen cell and I saw another queen cell that was still capped. Do you think that the next queen will swarm? Can I put the new brood box with the new queen back on the original hive since it still will not have a queen, assuming the new queen will swarm? How soon should I check the new brood box for eggs? Thank you so much for your help.

    • Kathleen,

      I think you are assuming the queen was killed, but based on your report, I don’t think she was.

      Generally, a swarm leaves with the old queen. In order to get the queen ready to fly, the bees prevent her from laying eggs for a couple weeks in advance of the swarm. One way they do this is backfilling the brood nest with nectar so there are no places to lay eggs. That is why 1) you saw no eggs and 2) the nest is filled with nectar.

      So now the queenless hive (the original colony) is packed with nectar. That sounds right. The empty queen cell you saw may have successfully hatched, or it is possible (but not as likely) that the swarm left with a virgin queen from that cell.

      No, I do not think they will swarm at this point. One of the queen cells will produce a virgin queen who must mate and will eventually begin laying in the original hive. You can recombine the two colonies if you want, but like I said, I believe the swarm most likely contains the old queen. If you combine, be wary of having two queens in there who will fight.

      The new brood box will have eggs almost immediately if it contains the old queen. If it has a virgin, it may take a couple of weeks.

      • Hi Rusty,
        Thank you so much for your answer! I checked the new brood box from the swarm a week later and there were eggs! So, it probably was the old queen. Wow, this is all so interesting. Did the original hive go into this plan to swarm (the queen not laying eggs, the brood boxes filled with nectar) because of the disruption of the bear attack? The original hive is so jam-packed with nectar. I put a super on top because I didn’t have anymore brood boxes in hopes that they would move up, but they haven’t put any comb up there yet. There are bees up in the super, just wandering around. I still do not see any eggs in the original hive. Do I just leave it, in hopes that there is a queen in there? I am so excited to have found your blog – it is so full of great information! I have been reading and reading!

        • Kathleen,

          Swarming has to do with the urge to reproduce more than anything. The bear most likely had nothing to do with it.

          Eggs should show up after about 8 days, up to two weeks from queen emergence. You can always add a frame containing eggs from the new hive. If they need to start another queen cell, that will give them something to work with.

  • I have two hives, one original hive and a second from where it swarmed. The second, swarm hive is doing great but the original has had some problems. After finding no eggs, capped brood or larva, we gave it a frame of capped brood from the healthy swarm hive. Two weeks later, the original hive is very, very quiet with no capped brood left, but we did spot a virgin queen. I am afraid if I take another frame from my healthy hive it will be weakened, but I am also afraid this virgin queen will not start laying in time. Don’t know what to do, don’t want to lose both hives and it’s so late in the season here in North Carolina. Do you have any insight/suggestions? I love your page! Thanks!

  • Hi Rusty,

    This forum is so precious!

    I made a nuc on 5 frames the 21st of August and the 26th I found 5 QC. Now, is it correct that if everything goes well, I should find one day eggs around the 20th of September? As I will be only able to check the nuc the 27th, I wonder if these frames will be enough for the
    the queen to lay…thank you!

      • Thanks Rusty,

        I forgot to say that I am in Australia, North NSW, so the weather here allows things to go very quickly. Anyway, I am sorry for my English and thank you again for your advice.

  • Thank you so much for your help! I have learned so much from this blog. Earlier I had written about my hive swarming after a bear attack, but it probably didn’t have anything to do with the bear. I now have two hives, one hive with two brood boxes of which the top is stuffed full of nectar and pollen for the winter, the bottom box is almost drawn out with brood, the bees are very active. This is the hive from which the swarm originated. I at first thought there was no new queen but now I see there must be a queen because of all the new eggs, brood, and number of bees. I put a super on, but the bees only go up there and wander around, they have never built any comb. I believe most are still working on that bottom brood box. I believe this hive will be set for winter. Now my biggest concern is the hive I set up with the swarm. I have only one box with 10 frames in that hive, the queen is there, I am assuming it is the old queen, which by the way was a new queen purchased this spring with a box of bees. That colony has only expanded to covering maybe four frames, on both sides and half of another frame. They aren’t making a lot of progress and it’s the end of August. There are lots of wildflowers and garden flowers still blooming, especially goldenrod, but I wonder if there is going to be enough for this hive to make it over the winter? I live in central Minnesota, so the growing season is coming to an end fairly soon. Do you have any suggestions for overwintering that small hive? Thank you.

    • Kathleen,

      Feed it syrup for now. Once the weather gets cold, change to a candy board or granulated sugar. If it remains small, you can put it on top of your other hive separated by a double-screen board. This allows the heat from the big colony to keep the small one warm.

  • Hi Rusty,

    Wondering if you can shed light on a question of mine. It looks like you might have written a post on it some years back.

    How do people sent up mini nucs (broodless), get a laying queen and then emerging brood before the bees die? It seems to be if you set up a mini nuc with a cup or so of bees, and a capped queen cell you’ll be waiting about 2-3 weeks (depending on age of queen cell and length of mating flight(s)) for queen to start laying, then another 3 weeks for eggs to emerge. This makes it likely only the youngest bees will still be alive by the time the new workers emerge.

    Are you supposed to add new bees part way through or is there some other method? You mention above the possibility they can take longer than 6 weeks if away from the danger of foraging?


    • David,

      I’ve wondered about this myself, and it seems like there is almost a bit of “magic” involved. When you go by the numbers and use average lifespans, it seems like it would not work. However, in most cases, it does work. I think a combination of things happen. In addition to being protected from the perils of foraging, I think that brood pheromone (or other pheromones) keep the workers “younger” physiologically and allow them to keep going until new bees take over. This is based on observation more than anything, although pheromones are known to have substantial effects on bee behavior and health.

      That said, I would add brood if I thought it was necessary.

      • It’s quite exciting the fact we still know so little about the inner workings of the hive, pheromones etc, still so much to discover!

        Being a new beekeeper I received my first 2 hives/nucs July last year so this year is my first attempt at queen rearing…inspecting yesterday i found 6/11 3 frame nucs have raised a queen and 10/15 mini mating nucs have a queen, although of the 10 i couldn’t find queens in I’m hoping they’ve just eluded me as only one of the hives is obviously dead and its too soon for eggs yet…as above its all very exciting although not always ‘fun’ haha.

        Thanks for all your advice, its been and still is invaluable.


    • Some workers come out with the queen to help her find her way back, but I wouldn’t say it looks like swarming.

    • I was wondering the same thing. A few days ago, I was checking on my bees around 9 am (temps low 60’s) when I noticed swarm-like behavior from my bees. I may have said some choice words having just caught two swarms from two different hives. I thought it was bizarre because my bees usually swarm midafternoon (temps 70+). The bees were 50 feet above the apiary and shifting all over the place. Not the typical swarm behavior with the cloud of bees, the roar, the low circling, and the landing. I watched as a small swarm (football size) landed on a branch for a few minutes before dissipating. It was all over within 40 minutes. I was expecting a new queen to emerge from the hive that “swarmed” having recently performed a split. The hive that “swarmed” just started bringing in pollen. Thoughts?

      P.S. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. This is the start of year three for me. I appreciate your time, humor, and expertise! Thank you!

      • Mandy,

        The size makes me think it was a secondary or tertiary swarm. Maybe you ended up with more than one queen in there?

  • I got a nuc on May 3rd and two weeks later I found several swarm cells in the bottom of the frame in the center of the hive. I was afraid they would be getting ready to swarm and I took the queen and a couple of frames with brood and bees and placed them in another hive. The “nuc” hive has lots of bees but, as of June 11, I cannot see a queen, no larvae, or capped brood. The bees seem to be bringing lots of nectar and pollen. How long can a hive be thriving and queenless? Should I wait longer to see larvae or should I just go ahead and re-queen? What if I introduce a new queen but there is another one already in the hive? I confess I have a hard time finding a queen when she is not marked. But it seems to me I should have seen signs of new brood… Your advice would be most appreciated.

    • Pilar,

      As the article states, 14 to 21 days is a good estimate from emergence until laying. Add another 16 days from egg to emergence. That’s 30 to 37 days. You removed the queen on two weeks after May 3, which is May 17. So 30 to 37 days after May 17 is June 16 to June 23. The life cycle calculator I have says June 23. The important thing is that you left lots of eggs and very young larvae in the nuc. They can be queenless for a few weeks, especially if there was open brood to start with. If you introduce a queen with another queen in the colony, one or both will get killed.

  • Hi Rusty,

    First year beekeepers here. Our hive was going strong on 6/4/18. Our queen was marked and we saw her as well as lots of eggs, larvae and capped brood. On 6/17/18 we couldn’t find the queen or any eggs but there was larvae and capped brood. There were also what looked like empty supersede cells. We obtained a new queen from a dealer on 6/20/18. Checked on 6/23 and she was released. Checked on 6/25 and the queen was present but no eggs were observed and she was wandering all over the frame like she was lost! Shouldn’t she be settling in and starting to lay by now?

    Thanks so much for your blog! I read it all the time:)

    • Mynon,

      1. It’s not unusual to not see the queen, marked or not. It happens.
      2. Queens often reduce or halt laying during swarm season if the colony is planning on that.
      3. Empty supersedure cells are not uncommon. It’s related to genetics. Some colonies build them and tear them down all the time, just in case. Others don’t.
      4. Newly mated queens don’t start up all at once. She may lay only a few eggs for a while until she hits her stride. Give her a chance.

  • Thanks Rusty! I’m just getting nervous because we haven’t had any eggs laid in 2 weeks. How often should we check and what should we do and when if there aren’t any eggs?

  • Hi. I love this site. Dahlia swarmed on the 26th. Luna swarmed on the 28th. I checked both hives today. Dahlia has 7 capped queen cells and Luna has 3 capped queen cells. Approximately when should I start checking for eggs from the new queen assuming that all goes well? Two to three weeks from those dates?

  • Hi Rusty, I enjoy your site so much! I just started beekeeping with a colony this year. I purchased a 5 medium frame nuc from my supplier, and when he came to install it, he actually ended up giving me 10 medium frames with a mix of drawn comb, honey, brood, etcetera. I was happy I got more than I paid for, but one thing that I did not like is I noticed what I had learned were swarm cells on some of the frames. He just cut them off and told me it would be no problem. Being new at this and him being the expert I accepted that. We installed the 10 frames, added a medium super on top and that was that. The problem is that ever since then, every time I inspected I have noticed swarm cells. I have been cutting them off reluctantly, because my mentor and everyone I talk to says it’s too early to split. Anyhow, that has been some time ago, and I have been able to keep them from swarming. At one point I tried checkerboarding the frames in order to get them to realize that there is plenty of room and get them to expand the hive. Been feeding them since installation to encourage wax production. They have been drawing comb. But here’s where I’m at now… On the 13th of July I noticed a definite supercedure cell with larva and royal jelly. Figured that for some reason they wanted to replace the queen, or perhaps I damaged her at some point, I don’t know. Since then, on July 29th I confirmed that the colony is in fact now queenless. Did not see the virgin queen in there, but I hope she is, as it was 2 weeks after I had seen the larva with royal jelly. I put the colony back together and have let it go ever since. We’ve had terrible weather. Periods of rain every day. Based on your excellent article above, I’m thinking that I should check for a laying queen sometime between the 10th-17th of August, giving 2-3 weeks after emergence which likely happened around July 27th. And here is now my question… Is there anything you can do to confirm that there is a virgin queen in there besides seeing her? I hate to disturb the hive during this time, but I’m freaking out worried that for some reason I won’t have a laying queen and I don’t want to wait too late to install a new one if I must do that. I didn’t want to buy a new one, because the science part of me is interested in seeing them create their own queen. Sorry for the compound question, I just want to give you all the information I have at my disposal.

  • I am awaiting Rusty’s answer here with interest. There’s something I just don’t understand about the 10 extra frames coming with a five frame nuc. When he delivered the nuc, was it actually a complete hive and not a nuc?

  • Also, another thought for you. It’s pretty late in the season and you only have one hive, right? Just buy another queen, it’s their best chance at this point to survive the winter depending on your location.

  • Thanks Terri! I’m not sure if it was truly a nuc or if it would be considered a hive at that point. But it was ten medium frames, almost completely drawn out with a mix of brood, honey, nectar, etcetera. Though I had limited knowledge at that point and still do, I remember thinking that it looked overcrowded to me, and the swarm cells worried me. I kind of think my bee guy dropped the ball, but I don’t know. I think I will replace with a new queen soon. Part of my decision process was based on the fact that I was away on vacation during the majority of the time that the virgin queen was in her cell, so I figured that since I couldn’t be there to introduce a new queen anyhow, I might as well let nature take its course. I live in Pennsylvania, and maybe this is wrong but everybody told me that getting my bees to overwinter on new equipment and one colony is going to be next to impossible. Most have told me that my priority this year is to get them to draw out as many frames with waxcomb as possible so that next year I can start a package or nuc out with a better foundation to build on. I know even from that standpoint it would be better to buy and introduce a new queen. At this point that leads to another question. Can I still do that if there is a Virgin Queen in there? Would I have to remover her? The fact is I haven’t even seen her yet, and I feel reluctant to inspect the hive for fear I might interrupt the process or damage her.

  • Hi all…

    I’ve a virgin queen. It hatched on 15th Jan 2019.

    And today, 4th Febr. It isn’t laying yet.

    What should I do??

    • Koko,

      You are still in the 14- to 21-day window, so I would hang tight a few more days. Also, you could give the colony of frame of eggs, if you have one.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I cannot find answers to my questions anywhere, so I’m coming to you for help.

    One of my hives superseded its queen. 2 virgins emerged from their cells, and I even got to hear them piping, which was fun!

    Whoever won the battle returned from her mating flight and I have eggs, larvae, and some capped brood, but also have another supersedure cell being started.

    We live in a remote forested area and I’m starting to be concerned that my 12 hives are about all that’s here. My questions:

    Will my queens mate with drones in my apiary, or would they consider them too close?

    Are there signs I can see that the queen didn’t mate properly or only the bees will know that? It’s been about a week and it seems too early to expect a full frame of brood?

    What potential problems could she have that they would they want to replace her already?

    I love your website and really appreciate your help,


    • Terry,

      So many questions.

      First, I don’t believe there is any such thing as a “remote forested area” with no honey bees. Most forests are full of feral colonies these days. Just because you never see them doesn’t mean they’re not there. Plus, bees can travel for miles and miles to mate, and they will.

      Queens may occasionally mate with drones from their own hive, but that is why polyandry is a thing with honey bees. By mating 12 to 16 times, they are sure to get a good mix of genes.

      You seem to be concerned about a queen cell? Or is it a queen cup? Queen cups are built constantly and they don’t really mean anything. But if a queen is poorly mated, they will supersede her. That’s a good thing.

      You asked about having brood so soon after mating, but you don’t give me a timeline. I don’t know what happened when. But this post explains some general quidelines.

      I suppose there are dozens of reasons a queen may need to be superseded: low pheromone levels, poor laying ability, poor mating, health issues, size issues, physical deformities, missing a leg, wing or antennae, bad attitude . . . plus many more.

  • At the bottom of the article: “once the first egg is laid, it will take three weeks for it to hatch”

    Should be three days.

    • Sean,

      Thanks for a good catch. It should be weeks, though. The wrong word was “hatch.” Eggs hatch, bees emerge. So “Once the first egg is laid, it will take three weeks for it to emerge.”

  • I had two hives swarm on me, I checked after 14 days and saw no eggs or open brood so I re-queened. After the fact, my first mistake, I started searching through your site for more information and have the following questions.
    1. After swarming how soon will a new queen emerge?
    2. Did I not wait long enough before re-queening?
    3. If 2 to 3 weeks is a good rough estimate of emergence to laying by the queen but 10 days of no open brood causes workers to start laying, what mechanism prevents that from happening?
    4. What is the probability of success ?
    Thank you in advance, love your site!!!

    • Dave,

      Two things suppress laying workers, queen pheromone and open brood pheromone. The new virgin queen will generally emerge within a day or two after the swarm leaves, so that means the colony was without a queen for two days. Granted, a virgin does not have nearly as much pheromone as a mated one, but apparently it’s enough to prevent a bunch of laying workers. There could be other mechanisms, but this is the one I’ve heard about.

  • Rusty, if it takes 19 days, then do laying workers start developing? If for example it’s an emergency supercedure, the queen cells may be capped at the same time as the last of the worker brood. Therefore, the length of time between the open brood pheromone disappearing and the new queen’s first brood hatching could be quite long.

    8 days of everyone being capped + up to
    19 days til first eggs are laid +
    3 days to hatch =
    30 days with no open brood pheromone.

    So my my question is: what prevents laying workers from taking over the hive in a situation like this?

    • Sean,

      It’s a good question and I don’t know the answer. I suspect some do start to develop, but maybe not enough to usurp the colony.

  • First year beek here, and we sadly lost our new queen on August 17th. It’s been 25 days since we found our new virgin queen, and today we found 2-3 day old eggs! According to all the beeks in our area, our hive was doomed as of 10 days ago. I kept your blog post in mind and have tried to stay cool. And you were right on with the 2-3 weeks suggestion. I guess sometimes nature just needs a little bit of extra time! Thanks again for all your AWESOME blog posts!

  • Summer,

    Rule No. 1: DO NOT listen to beeks in your area.

    Rule No. 2: ALWAYS check this website first before doing anything if you have issues.

    Rule No. 3: Take the info from Rusty and run with it, she is usually right on! Over the years she has saved a tremendous number of hives for her followers when ‘beeks in the area’ have doomed the colonies. Check my post above from 2016! The colony ‘was doomed,’ she helped me, and three years later that colony is still thriving. If I had listened to ‘beeks in the area’ the colony w/have perished for sure. You cannot go wrong using her advice.

    Rule No 4: Stay away from Bee Clubs!

    Stick with Rusty and you will make it through the most troublesome years in beekeeping. She always does a great job! I don’t know what all of us would do without her knowledge and help.

    • Hi Debbie,

      Honey Bee Suite is my go to blog/forum for sure!

      It’s very tough to decipher good or bad info from the beeks in my area/bee society, as most of them have been doing this for over 15 years and are very experienced. HOWEVER, most of them don’t seem to be willing to hear different views or ideas – stubborn and stuck in their ways perhaps. I find it frustrating, especially since not all bee situations are the same 100% of the time! My goal is just to learn as much as I can 🙂

  • Rusty, there is lot of information on “queen raising”, but NOWHERE does it talk about how the “raisers” or “breeders” capture all those mated queens. I do “walk away splits”, so no need to know, but still very curious. GREAT SITE!

  • Rusty,

    Yes on raising them, but here is the part I cannot figure out. Once “they raise them” how do they “capture them” or get “them back” when they make their mating flights?

    My dilemma is I see pics of queen breeders frames with a “hundred” queen cups (many at least) and once THEY ALL EMERGE and “fly off,” how do they re-capture them? No one ever mentions that part. As if it is too obvious to comment about. A single live supersedure is obvious and takes care of itself, no beekeeper attention required. But when raising 20 or 30 in one hive at a time to sell, it becomes an important detail.

    Help me understand this little detail.

    Thanks for the quick reply and just plain useful site. YOU IZ THE BEST.

  • Rusty,

    I’m not sure that my answer states my question clearly. Let me try again: The biology of bee raising I got down good (even grafted a few queen sells successfully in splits). The picture I have in my mind that does not have an answer is this: There is a bee breeder hive with, let’s say, thirty queen cups. Now the 30 queens emerge, go on a mating flight, THEY COME BACK TO “WHERE”(a hive, a trap ?)

    HOW DOES THE BREEDER “CAPTURE” the 30, or what ever % that return to somewhere, to sell?

    (Maybe a better word than CAPTURE is “get a hold of them”) Sorry to “bug” you on this, but it’s been an unanswered question for years, and I’ve look many a place, and you seem a tolerant host. Thank you again.

    • John,

      The queens don’t all emerge in the same hive. If so, they would kill each other.

      Just before the queens emerge the cells are either capped with a cage, or just removed from the cell-builder hive. Each ripe queen cell is put in a separate mating nuc. This is the queen’s new home. It’s just like a regular hive, as far as she is concerned. So now, with one virgin per mating nuc, they go out and mate and each returns to her own home. Once mated, the queens can be removed from the mating nuc and be shipped or sold or installed elsewhere.

  • Rusty. PERFECT, makes OBVIOUS sense, but no one I ever read that talks about queen raising mentions this SIMPLE fact and detail! A REALLY BIG THANKS TO U!!!!!

    Have a GREAT DAY!

  • Hi,

    I picked up a large swarm on Memorial Day. Dropped them into two brood boxes that were already built out. The coming and going of the bees has been slow. I opened the hive yesterday (10 days later) and found a small patch of eggs in a top frame, no capped brood, no queen cells, and a bunch of bees just walking around stupid.

    Yup, installed a new queen last night and then I saw the old queen. Two queens in the hive. May the best one win.

  • Hi Rusty, I had seen an open queen cell and the small virgin queen running around a frame, this was 2 weeks ago, but when I inspected the hive recently the virgin queen was not present, so I am assuming she went out on mating flights. If she is not back in the hive on the next inspection, do I re-queen asap, or can I donate a frame of eggs as I do not want them to become drone-laying workers? Thanks for your time and advice.

    • Bee Man,

      Don’t look for the queen, look for eggs. Queens are hard to find; eggs hold still.

      Yes, you can add eggs or larvae to suppress ovary development. The queen may just be taking her time, or the weather may be bad. Hard to say.

  • Hi Rusty,

    Alan here in Eastern SD. I have supers newly extracted so what is your take on a safe and effective way to let the bees clean them up. I don’t want to start a robbing frenzy. But there is good food for them. Feeding 2:1 syrup now with the 2 gals of fumidil syrup per colony. But I reckon these supers would be welcome.

    • Alan,

      I would just stack them up on your strongest hive. Make sure to close any upper entrances and use a robbing screen on the lower entrance.

  • I’m curious, a fellow beekeeper said that after a queen has emerged from her cell, she has only eight days to mate. If not mated by 8 days, then she will not be fertile. Have you ever heard of a time restriction on when a newly emerged queen must get mated? We have had cold weather for over a week and I have several hives that could have virgin queens.

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