Conventional wisdom is that:- once mated, a queen will not
fly other than with a swarm, but there are a few exceptions that
mainly go un-noticed.
The occasions that it has happened to me would also have
gone un-noticed if it were not that my queens were numbered rather
than just marked.
These cases were manifested by queens swapping from nuc to
nuc, or from nuc to full sized hive and sometimes a 'three way' swap.
Some of these swaps could have been achieved by the queens
walking on wooden pallets that the nucs were placed on, but some
occurred over distances of twenty feet or so between adjacent rows of
pallets and one swap occurred over about sixty yards.
When I mentioned this on the Irish discussion group, one
correspondent replied with complete disbelief. I cannot see a reason
for this behaviour myself, but I can surmise that mated queens do
sometimes fly (for reasons unknown). In full lay they would not be
very agile and would not be able to reach a very high altitude. Any
conditions that were conducive to such flying would explain the
possibility of multiple queens being airborne in the same time frame.
However the only way that I can see for queens returning to the wrong
hive would be if they were accompanied by workers and got mixed up
with the wrong bunch.
Allen Dicks Experience (Email)
There has been some discussion, including an article by self stating a
mated marked breeder queen ($$$) stopped laying and disappeared for
an entire week and was back in the hive laying when my wife finally
went to replace her.
I have noticed on many occasions... Queens walking on hive
woodwork or on fence rails that mating nucs are fixed to.
I have also noticed, that when the walking was observed the
sky was overcast. The timing seems mainly in the evening about an hour
before normal flying finishes.
The following few paragraphs are due to Murray McGregor and
stem from some private Email on the subject of mated queens flying...
In one case we had a silver queen sitting on a pallet of normal
colonies, and it was the only silver queen in the site.
She was a stormer, and gave two deeps and two shallows stuffed full of
the winter rape, and none of the other colonies gave more than two
supers. One visit we opened the colony up, after splitting it the
previous visit by flight board, to find a tailing off brood pattern in
the bottom where the old queen had been, so she had last laid about
five days before. There were unsealed swarm cells and a pattern of
early stage emergency cells.
Thoughts of course turn to queen death, or perhaps having run upstairs
to join the split. No, the split was just fine and had cells within a
day or two of hatching. So I rubbed out all the cells in the bottom,
transferred a bar with a ripe cell down to the bottom and left them to
get on with it, which they did, and duly ended up with two daughter
colonies of good power for the heather.
About five yards away across the site we came on a colony, which had
been pretty good, but had thrown a swarm. Somehow it had swarmed off
and entered a bait hive on the wall at the other side of the site,
filled the box and was going strong, with the queen from the swarmed
hive. However, back at the colony where she came from there were no
queen cells left, all were torn down without hatching and there were
eggs and youngest larvae everywhere. You have already guessed it of
course, there was the silver queen laying away like mad having taken
over this other colony. There was no evidence that the colony from
which she had originated had actually swarmed, no bee depletion and no
cells even sealed. Figure that one out.
I have seen moved queens quite a few times, in various strains of bee,
so it is not particularly an A.m.m. trait
Written... Summer 2001
Revised... 13 March 2002