How to Deal with Laying Workers
Laying workers come about when the colony has been without a queen for some time. The difficulty with laying workers is several:
- They only lay drone eggs (leading to the demise of the colony)
- They are not visually different to other workers
- There are many many laying workers in the colony
- A laying worker colony more often than not will reject a mated or virgin queen.
Signs of Laying Workers
There will be patchy drone brood and importanly multiple eggs in cells. These eggs from laying workers will also be laid randomly, and all over the cells. Some on the side walls. See photo below of laying worker eggs.
There may be those who feel a queen can be offered to a laying worker colony, but from experience they colony will more often than not simply kill the queen offered. They will also try to raise queen cells, but these cells are hopeless as they are being raised from drone larvae. These cells are also known as ‘king cells’ they will never develop into a queen as importantly drone eggs only have half the number of chromosomes.
How to deal with laying workers
The only option with a laying worker colony is to shake the colony out. Ideally around 200 yards from the original hive site, but closer will also work. The best time of day to do this is in the evening.
The laying workers (who don’t fly) will be left to perish in the grass, whereas the non laying workers will fly back to the original hive stand.
If the colony was strong enough then the flying bees may then support a new queen introduced to them, but in reality if the colony was small anyway (covering less than 8 full seams of bees) then it may be best to let the bees disband into other hives in the apiary.
If you are planning to introduce a queen, it is important to make sure non of the laying worker brood goes back into the hive, the colony should be fed, and ideally some drawn comb provided for the queen to start laying in straight away.
As with anything with beekeeping there are often many ways to do things. The above is gleaned from our own experience, albeit nowadays we see very few laying worker colonies as colonies only tend to go to laying workers if they have been queenless for quite some time.
If you are in need of a queen to rectify a laying worker colony please see our queen section of the shop for latest availability as we can often send queens next day, and you will need to make sure you have a queen ready to go straight into th