How to Get Rid of Laying Workers in Your Beehive
If your colony loses its queen and is unable to raise a new queen, a strange situation can arise. Without the “queen substance” wafting its way through the hive, there is no pheromone to inhibit the development of the worker bees’ reproductive organs.
In time, young laying workers’ ovaries begin to produce eggs. But these eggs are not fertile (the workers are incapable of mating). So the eggs can only hatch into drones. You may notice eggs, larvae, and brood and never suspect a problem. But you have a huge problem! The colony will die off without a steady production of new worker bees to gather food and tend to the young. A colony of drones is doomed.
How to know if you have laying worker bees
Be on the lookout for a potential laying-workers situation and take action when it happens. The following are key indicators:
You have no queen. Remember that every inspection starts with a check for a healthy, laying queen. If you have lost your queen, you must replace her.
You see lots and lots of drones. A normal hive never has more than a few hundred drone bees. If you notice a big jump in the drone population, you may have a problem.
You see cells with two or more eggs. This is the definitive test. A queen bee will place only one egg in a cell — never more than one. Laying workers are not so particular; they will place two or more eggs in a single cell. If you see more than one egg in a cell, you can be certain that you have laying worker bees.The best way to determine whether you have laying workers is to count eggs in the cells. If you spot multiple eggs in a cell, you have a problem to deal with.
Getting rid of laying workers
Introducing a young and productive queen won’t set things right. The laying workers will not accept a queen once they have started laying eggs. If you attempt to introduce a queen, she will be swiftly killed.
Before you can introduce a new queen, you need to get rid of all the laying workers. You need the following items:
An empty deep hive body (no frames). The empty hive body will be used to temporarily hold the frames you remove from the problem hive. You will need two empty hive bodies if your problem hive consists of two deep hive bodies.
An outer cover
A wheelbarrow or hand truck
Follow these steps:
Order a new marked queen from your bee supplier.
The day your queen arrives, put the entire “problem” hive (bees and all, minus the bottom board) in the wheelbarrow (or on the hand truck) and move it at least 100 yards away from its original location. You’ll want those spare empty hive bodies and outer covers nearby.
The bottom board stays in its original location.
One by one, shake every last bee off each frame and onto the grass.
Not a single bee can remain on the frame — that bee might be a laying worker. A bee brush helps get the stubborn ones off.
Put each empty frame (without bees) into the spare empty hive(s) you have standing by. These should be at least 15 to 20 feet away from the shaking point.
Make sure that no bees return to these empty frames while you are doing the procedure. Use the extra outer cover to ensure that they can’t sneak back to their denuded frames.
When you have removed every bee from every frame, use the wheelbarrow or hand truck to return the old (now bee-less) frames to the original hive bodies.
Place the hive to its original location on the bottom board, and transfer all the denuded frames from their temporary housing. So now you have the original hive bodies back at their original location, and all of the originals frames (less bees) placed back into the hive.
Some of the bees will be there waiting for you. These are the older foraging bees (not the younger laying workers). Be careful not to squash any bees as you slide the hive back onto the bottom board.