The Queen is Dead, Long Live the Queens

Sometime during the winter our bee queen passed away. Seeing no brood we worried, but we read online that sometimes Italian Queens were slow to start laying in Spring. Then we saw erratic egg laying with several eggs in each cell, but we read online that this sometimes this happens with young queens.

bee eggs too many in each cell

Since we had no second hive to introduce new brood from, we waited, and as it turns out, the queen had died, and for some reason the bees hadn’t been able to raise a new one. Instead a worker had tried to take over. Un-mated, she could only lay drones. The decline of the hive was fast after that, and the last time we opened it it had been completely cleaned out by robber bees, leaving only a few drone brood behind.


After a little wait while new queens were being raised for us, this week we welcomed Queen Beresford the Second and Queen Eleanor. With a full summer to come, and lots of flowers, they should each have two boxes of brood and honey to keep them warm and fed next winter. With two queens, if one should die, we can provide brood so that another queen can be raised, or in the worst case, combine the hives.


After the initial orientation ceremonies, the feasting began. Comfrey, Cordyline, Echium, Lavender, and Borage and Blackberry were tasted and found delicious. Small scented pelargonium flowers were declared a novel delicacy. Artichoke buds, young Salvia flowers, and growing Dahlias, Rudeckias, and Coreopsis were examined and admired. The Olive tree archway is again a buzzing tunnel.


We are all looking forward to an abundant summer.


11 thoughts on “The Queen is Dead, Long Live the Queens

  1. Interesting update on the bees, until I read about your bees and those of Amelia I didn’t realise keeping bees was so fraught with difficulty. Can you show more images of the olive arch; it looks really good.

    1. Hi Christina, I think everything is a bit harder now that there is varroa and the various pesticides, however there were probably always a certain number of failures over winter. I’ll take some more pictures of the olives – it’s not a structure, they just form an arch where they have been pruned close to the path underneath.

  2. It is tough if you lose a queen in winter or early spring before there are any drones about to fertilise a new queen. At least now with two hives you have more options. It was lovely to see your bees on the flowers. Today was too dull and damp to tempt the honey bees to come out here but I did have the pleasure of watching some bumble bees on the strawberry tree flowers. They had pollen sacs so they must still have brood. Amelia

    1. Yes, it was sad to lose them. I hope we will be more able to cope with any problems next year, because of the two hives and because hopefully they will have had a full summer to build up reserves. It is lovely to see the bumble bees as well. I’m sorry to hear of your problems with hornets. We have the common wasp and the German wasp which are bad enough. I have to admit that we poison them which I am sure is not a great idea, but they can really take over otherwise.

  3. Have you read the novel The Bees by Laline Paull? It’s a fascinating story, set in a beehive and all of the characters are bees. It’s based on extensive research about bee behaviour but with a wonderful narrative woven into it. Your post reminded me of it!

    1. Thanks for the recommendation- I have just bought it on Amazon. It’s going to be terrible weather this weekend so I’ll look forward to reading it. 🙂

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