Oh, the trials and tribulations of beekeeping. I tell you, if it can happen in beekeeping, it has or is happening to us. The fact that we continue to persevere means we're really stupid and don't know when to quit or we just aren't quitters (yet).
This is the story of a chemically-murdered queen, a queen-cell queen, an unprotected installed queen, a pseudo usurper queen, and a protected installed queen. This saga is almost as bad as Henry VIII's parade of queens and almost like them: divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, widowed. I love Anne Boleyn by the way.
We had a swarm delivered to us three weeks ago. The person who delivered it discovered once it was delivered and opened that it didn't have a queen because he killed her with miticide (ugh!). That's one queen down. A queen cell was naturally formed to replace the queen the colony lost, but the person who brought the swarm to us tried to rectify the situation by bringing us a new queen. He installed her directly into the hive unprotected, and they immediately balled her and more than likely killed her. When he installed the queen, I asked him if we needed to destroy the queen cell or leave it. He said leave it and check it in a few days. In the meantime, a worker bee decided she wanted to be queen, and she started laying eggs, which if you know anything about beekeeping, you know she can only lay drone (male) eggs. A pseudo queen bee does not a queen make. This also told us that the installed queen did not survive. Now, back to the queen cell, she hatched, and up until yesterday, we were hoping she was still in there even though we had a usurper pseudo worker bee queen on our hands. If the hatched queen was indeed still in the hive, we were waiting to give her time to make her mating flights and assume her throne. We checked the colony yesterday and could not find her or any evidence she was present.
So that brings us to our last queen, the protected installed queen. Believe me, she will be our last queen for this colony. We bought her today locally, and she came in a Benton queen cage. We were told this is a risky attempt at re-queening because once a worker bee starts laying, it's hard to convince the rest of the colony a new queen is needed. They see eggs being laid and they go about their respective jobs. Everything to them is dandy in the bee world. So to help ease her transition to the colony, we took two frames containing capped and uncapped brood from our other hive, inserted them in the queenless hive and suspended the new queen in her box between the two frames. Apparently capped brood emits pheromones, like the queen, so between the brood and queen pheromones and by the time the bees eat through the candy plug of the queen cage, the queen should have had time to establish control of the colony. If the new queen is accepted, the usurper will be relieved of her duties.
Long live the queen!