We have been struggling to keep our hives with queens this year: first one of them came through the winter with a drone-laying queen that had to be found, killed and replaced. Then one swarmed and there have been no signs of laying yet, and another was laying very poorly and was merged with a collected swarm and no eggs have been seen since.
In each case we have done the usual trick of adding a sheet of eggs from another hive and waited to see if they raise queen cells; one has but the other two have not raised any cells leading us to believe there must be a non-laying queen in there somewhere or just no queen and some very confused bees. The problem is we cant find any queens!
So we have, for the first time in our 6 years as beekeepers, ordered some new queens and will try and find ways to safely introduce them. They come through the post in a buzzing padded envelope in these tiny little cages which contain the queen, 5 attendant bees and a lump of fondant which block the exit.
I will describe how we got on introducing them next week once I know the results.