Q. If a colony is queenless and there’s no brood to raise a new queen, would they stay, swarm or die?

A. If there isn’t any viable brood, they can’t raise a queen. A queen can only be raised from a fertilised larva that is about 24 to 36 hours old. Therefore, a broodless hive doesn’t have the capacity to raise a queen. So when the adult bees eventually die, there is no longer a colony.

These bees will not swarm as they go with a queen. Similarly, they are unlikely to abscond without a queen. Without a queen and her pheromones, the hive is more susceptible to being robbed; and is more susceptible to diseases due to the high stress levels.

Eventually without the pheromones of a queen or brood, some workers may develop rudimentary ovaries and become laying workers. Seeing as they haven’t mated, they will only lay drones, which may then hasten the demise of the hive.

A queenless hive will eventually die.

Ken Brown is an Apiculture Land Based Training tutor, Vice President of the Auckland Beekeepers Club and a keen hobbyist beekeeper.

Queenie. Photo: Lindenberg Gomes.