How long does it take for a new queen to come into lay?

It takes 16 days from egg laying to your new queen emerging. Once emerged the new queen needs time to mature, and then she will go on her mating flights before she comes into lay.

Maturing – When the new queen emerges her outer layer, Chitin, must harden and thicken, this is the same for most insects, and this can take several days. Her pheromones also develop over the first few days, these are essential to attract the flying drones. This whole process may take 5 days before she begins her mating flights.

Mating Flights – Once the new queen is mature she will take her first mating fights, some workers will accompany her, so she has her own royal entourage! She will fly to one or more drone congregation areas, here she will be pursued by hundreds of drones, and if all goes to plan, she will mate with 12 or more drones.

The aim is to fill her spermatheca with sperm from drones she has mated with, it takes a few days for the sperm to travel from the oviducts to the spermatheca and it may require multiple mating fight to collect enough sperm to complete this process.

When will she Lay – So, if we count the days as if all goes to plan, and with her only needing 1 mating flight, the minimum time will be 8 days from emergence to laying: 5 days to mature, 1 day for mating flights and 2 days for her to get ready to lay.

But, this very rarely happens, so a more typical timescale to work with, would be 12 days: 6 days to mature, 4 days of mating flights, and 2 days to get ready for laying. If you have a week of poor weather you can extend this to 19 days.

My rule of thumb is check the bees in 2 weeks, if all looks and sounds well then leave them for another week. You may find that when you check you have polished cells, these are cells in the middle frames of the brood box that the bees have backfilled with nectar but, now their new queen is coming into lay, they will remove any nectar/honey from, and polish them up ready for her to lay in. If you see polished cells but no eggs this is a good sign.

Risks – There are of course risks along the way. The queen may get eaten by a bird on her mating flight or get caught in the rain. Or she may not be able to go on mating flights due to poor weather and therefore she will become a drone layer. So, once you see eggs it’s a good sign, but you need to wait to ensure the eggs she is laying are fertile.

If your bees have swarmed, I hope this post will help you to be patient with the bees and give them some time before you make the decision they are queen-less!

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