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  • Writer's pictureCJ Turner

Your Hive has Laying Workers. WHAT DO YOU DO?!

Ahhh, the dilemma of the laying worker bees. This is something that I have recently had to deal with and it is quite the sight to see. The image above is a frame from my hive that shows a textbook example of laying workers.

Unfortunately, if your hive looks like this, it is probably time to let the hive go, but if you catch laying workers early, there may be a chance you can save it.

What are Laying Workers

When a hive is not "queenright" the workers (female bees) will begin to lay their own brood. However, they can only lay unfertilized eggs which later become drones (male bees). They may also do their darndest to try and raise their own queen *see open queen cup in the picture* however this will most likely be unsuccessful, and the hive will continue to lose bees every day. If you suspect your hive may have laying workers, or it is not queenright, you must take action. The following are some suggestions if you find yourself in this situation.

Add a New Queen

One option you might consider is introducing a new, healthy queen to your hive. If you catch a non-queenright hive early enough, this would be a good option. However, if you are seeing signs of laying workers, it may be too late. Many people sell individual queens that you can put inside your hive and see if it accepts the new queen. However, you must be willing to shell out some cash for a potentially unsuccessful attempt at saving your hive.

Add a Frame of Worker Brood From Another Hive

This is a good option if you have multiple hives. If you are able to find a frame in your one hive with brood comb, you can place it in the non-queenright hive. This will suppress the hormones signalling the worker bees to start laying and get them to produce a supersedure queen. You must place a new frame with worker brood into the hive every 5-6 days for it to be successful. However, like all things in beekeeping, this is not a definite fix but it may be worth a try.

Throw a Goodbye Party for Your Hive and Say Farewell

Unfortunately, this may become the only option for your hive if your laying workers are in full swing. If you were to add a new queen to your hive, the current worker bees may see her as a threat. This is because they are already convinced there is a queen in your hive because there is drone brood being laid. The worker bees would eventually kill the queen, and your hive would be queenless yet again. I truly hate being the bearer of bad news, and as beekeepers or bee lovers, thinking about shaking our bees out into soapy water is physically painful. However, the hive will eventually die out, and opening up a hive for a new healthy set of bees would be the best option if you plan to continue your apiary. So pour yourself a glass of wine, or sparkling grape juice if you prefer and begin the journey of starting over.

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