I am pretty new to beekeeping and have 2 hives. I ordered 2 queens in order to re-queen my hives this year. Both of my original queens died (I assume they died because they were marked and I could find them and then over the course of a month or so I couldn't find them but I still had eggs...so I didn't worry) and were superceded but the hives stayed pretty strong so I didn't seem to worry. I could tell they had a little more aggression than my original queens but they made a bunch of honey so the pros seemed to outway the cons. OK back to my re-queening. This is the first time that I had really tried to find the queens since I could always see eggs. As of yesterday afternoon and this afternoon (about 8 hours worth of looking) I came to the conclusion that both hives were queenless. I will give the best description of each hive and if anyone can give me some advice I would greatly appreciated it.
If you have all capped cells indicate drone eggs and open cells show multiple eggs then you would have laying workers. A lack of brood can be from several reasons, young queen that hasn't started laying yet, an old failing queen, the queen's taking a break (no, I'm not kidding), unhatched queen where the swarm has already left the hive, or recent loss of queen. I've known of people who searched their hive for 2 days and still couldn't find the queen but suddenly the queen started laying days after this tireless frantic search. Searching 2 hives for 8 hours and not finding the queen doesn't surprise me, it happens to many beginners.
Hive#1: I could not visually identify a queen. There was a lot of drones as compared to Hive#2. Hive#1 has always been stronger than Hive#2 until here recently although there is still a large number of bees in this hive. There was a lot of 7-8 day larva that was not capped yet and quite a bit of capped worker brood...but not a lot of drone cells. ( I don't understand this with the high number of drones in this hive. Although I cold find a lot of brood 5-8 days and older...I could not find one egg. Does this sound like this queen has just died?
Why is visual identification of the queen necessary? Personal achievement? If the hive displays the signs of a queen accept that and move on. A frantic search to visually verify a queen can often result in the loss of said queen as a result of the search. This hive sounds like it is post swarm. I cite the age of the larvae, lack of eggs, and presence of drones. If the queen in this hive has died it is because she was lost during a mating flight or an inspection. Virgin or Young mated queens that haven't started laying yet can be almost futile to find in a hive. Normally I would suggest barrowing a frame of brood from another hive to access the queen status, installing a frame of mixed eggs and larvae will often cause a dorment queen to begin laying again or the workers to draw queen cells.
Hive#2: This one is the real question for me. I searched and searched and searched for a queen in this hive. This hive has thousands of worker bees in it and not an uncommon number of drones. The odd thing about this hive is that there is no sign of reproduction. No eggs, no larva, no capped brood, no drone cells, nothing. Well not nothing I did find the starting of some queen cells and one that was almost drawn completely out (I removed all of these). There is a quite a bit of honey and pollen but nothing else? Is this a queenless hive as well? The best way I have found in 50 years of beekeeping to insure that a hive becomes queenless is to remove queen cells or cups.
Again this hive sounds post swarm but a little longer. This hive may indeed be queenless. If so the loss was recent and most likely from loss during a mating flight or inspection. This one I would definitely requeen if there are no other hives available from which to barrow a frame or 2 of brood. Since You only have 2 hives and they are both in trouble that course of a action is out of the question.
Being a novice and not the most experienced beekeeper I listened to my gut and introduced the new queens. Maybe I did the right thing.
Time will tell. I hope you do not mistake my reference to loss of queen during inspection as degrogatory, I still have it happen to me now and then and I've been doing this since I was 10 years old (50 yrs). The important thing is to not panic and jump to faulty conclusions. When an inspection becomes frantic in searching for a single bee there is much more of a tendency for haste in movement and thought, which induces clumsiness, and brings about more squished bees from the frames being pushed back and forth, in and out of the hive, and waved in the air, as well as a loss of recall on what one has recently been taught, read, or told/ It happens to all of us at some point. Call it Buck fever.
Any comments or critiques will be most welcome.
You need to develop the mental viewpoint of learning yoga when inspecting bees. Exploring a beehive needs to become your Zen. Slow careful movements and if you find yourself speeding up or becoming frantic, step back and take a deep breath before preceeding or stop for the day.
Learn to interept the signs you see but might not now understand. The status of the brood chamber is one such item, queen cells or lack there of is another, and the present of an abundance of drones is another. All of those can mean the presence or lack of a queen, but it also tells where within the possiblities it is.