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Identify, Control and Manage Laying Workers


You may find some workers feed on the royal jelly themselves and start laying eggs. You will find this may happen in the absence of a queen, queen cell, or young worker larvae (less than 3 days old, shaped like a comma), and when any fertilized eggs fail to produce a new queen. These are called laying workers (LWs).


The time from the day when a queenless situation arises and a worker may begin laying does vary by Honey bee species. In Apis cerana, workers start laying eggs 7 days after the start of a queenless situation without a queen cell, egg, or young larvae; in Apis mellifera, workers start laying eggs after 10 days.




  • If the queen is accidentally
  • A mated queen returning from her mating flight and failing to begin to lay
  • If you clip the winds of a new queen before she has went on her successful mating flight (keeping a queen excluder on the hive entrance and a virgin can not get out to mate)
  • Colony division with an emergency queen at an unfavorable time




  • Worker bees  with shiny, bulging, black abdomen.
  • Actually seeing a worker bee with her abdomen in a laying position in the cell
  • Pissed off workers, walking with wings in a K-shape
  • When looking into the cells you find multiple eggs, eggs attached to the wall or eggs not centrally positioned in the cell
  • You find smaller eggs than those you would normally see
  • Drone brood is mixed in with worker cells
  • Drones emerging from worker cells, and they are smaller in size than normal
  • Excess number of drones
  • Bees clustering at the entrance to the hive and on inspection you find smaller queen cells built on the faces of the comb.




  • Any time inside the hive during hive inspection, and honey harvesting, be conscious of the queens location keeping her safety in the front of your mind
  • If you find a colony without a queen, queen cell, eggs or very young larvae graft in a queen cell or introduce a new queen as quickly as you can.
  • If you find you are queenless and you can find no queen cell or eggs then place a brood comb with eggs and larvae into the hive.
  • Every 4–5 days after queen cell grafting or the emergence of a virgin queen inspect the colony to check on the status of the queen.

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  • If you identify a laying worker, remove her / them before introducing a queen cell or queen.
  • Move the colony with the laying worker a minimum 65 feet away placing an empty hive in its position
  • Place a sheet, cloth or newspaper on the ground and shake off all the bees from the combs in the laying colony onto it. Then try to shake all the laying workers’ eggs from all the combs.
  • Place good combs with the eggs removed into the new empty hive at the old hives location.
  • Add brood frames from other hives with eggs, larvae, pupae, and honey stores to the empty hive.
  • While monitoring the bees that were shaken onto the ground  you will find that the normal workers will fly back to the cleaned hive the ones left on the sheet, that are not able to return to the new hive are laying workers and should be left to die..
  • The new hive should be requeened, or the colony united with a queen-right colony ASAP.
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Tennessee's Honey Bees