We have been receiving loads of questions about checking for eggs this week. Here are some thoughts about eggs.
Why do I need to check for eggs?
The reason you need to look for eggs is to establish if there is a queen and if she is laying eggs. Just because there are no eggs present in the cells does not mean your colony is queenless. However, one of the best indicators that your colony is queen-right is a single egg in each cell in the center of the frame in the brood chamber.
It takes 3 days for eggs to hatch. Seeing eggs means that the queen has been there and laying eggs within the last 3 days. If you are worried about losing her, check back in 4 days and see if there are eggs in the hive.
Times when the colony may have a queen, but no eggs
1. There is a queen but she is not mature enough to lay. It takes 1 month from an egg to grow into a laying queen: 16 days until she emerges from her cell, then roughly 1 week for her to go on a mating flight (weather permitting) and 1 week to start laying eggs.
2. The colony just swarmed and the virgin queen is not mature.
3. The hive superseded and the new queen is not mature.
4. The queen is on a weight-loss diet in preparation for swarming.
5. The queen is taking a break.
6. There is no food for the bees and there are no resources for bees to raise brood.
7. The queen doesn’t have enough worker bees in the colony to support brood-rearing.
When do I need to look for eggs?
Beekeepers need to look for eggs every time they inspect the hive, or about every 7-10 days.
What do eggs look like?
It can be difficult to see eggs in the hive as they are very small. Here is a photo of comb with eggs. They are long and skinny like a grain of rice rather than a round chicken egg. A good queen will lay one egg per cell consistently over the center of the frame.
Hold up the frame with sunlight behind it and look at an angle into the cell.Sometimes you can only see the tip of the egg when looking straight on. If you are foundationless on our middle bar frames, and the comb is not fully drawn on the frame, be careful not to break the comb. (But if you do, no worries. You can always put it between the middle bars on a frame.)
If you are still having trouble seeing eggs, grab a magnifying glass. The frame perch (shown below and sold in our online shop HERE) can also help with this. Place the frame on the perch and take time to study it.
If it is still hard to see eggs, look for larger, 5-day old larvae. It is larger and can indicate a queen within the last 5 days.