Or perhaps that should be “Time to change the queen?”. This disappointing brood pattern suggests that the queen is not laying very well and that – with an excellent flow from the bramble and clover – the bees are filling any gaps they can find with nectar before the queen has a chance to lay.
The colony has ample space in the supers and there were several other frames with a similar patchy brood pattern. The colony is very strong. Clearly the bees also think a new queen is needed by the row of charged queen cells along the top bar. There was even one attached directly to the queen excluder. I could have transferred this directly to a queenless colony without any further manipulation.
However, I’m waiting for the most recently grafted larvae to be sealed, so it will be about three weeks before I have spare mated queens to replace the current one. In the meantime I’ve given her another chance. I knocked all the queen cells back and did my normal Demaree swarm control. I’ll let the bees exploit the good flow to draw out some foundationless frames and see if the queen lays these up well.
If not … it’s going to get prickly for her.
Hope all goes well. Rusty at Honey Bee Suite had an interesting post on queens recently – she discovered that some poorly laying queens began laying like crazy when moved into a new colony: http://www.honeybeesuite.com/when-the-weak-become-strong/
Not looking promising I’m afraid as they’re still making QC’s in the bottom box, though the queen is laying a much better pattern now. I will have new grafted queen cells from better stock ready on Thursday/Friday so will probably commit regicide then.
The queen is not dead, long live the queen … two weeks later and the colony have stopped making queen cells, the queen is laying a pretty convincing tight brood pattern, the nectar-filled cells are more or less gone and the supers (now three) are close to being capped off. The Demaree is completed – the first photo was taken on 22/6 – and I have removed the original brood box from the top of the stack before they fill it with nectar.
In retrospect I think I overestimated the space available in the supers (or forgot how recently I’d put the most recent super onto the colony … I need to keep better records) and the bees were simply cramming nectar into every available space in the brood box. The queen had run out of space, rather than running out of steam, and so they’d started to make swarm preparations.
A happy ending 🙂