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Month old hived swarm with no brood.

 
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IanT
Guard Bee


Joined: 21 Feb 2014
Posts: 51
Location: Lafayette, Indiana

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2014 11:54 am    Post subject: Month old hived swarm with no brood. Reply with quote

Reluctant to post this here, but I know that time is of the essence and I may be too late as is.

Background: I am a back yard beekeeper with an 8-frame Lang and a HTBH. The 8-frame Lang was filled with nuc in early June. They have not thrived. I detail the various problems I had with the bees in the Lang elsewhere in this forum. Around June 26th, I hived a real strong looking swarm in my HTBH. The swarm was so strong in fact that I moved my Lang to a friend's farm to avoid what I saw as inevitable robbing from the new swarm. Here are some details from the HTBH (the bees from the swarm were really snooping around the weaker Lang hive)

http://www.biobees.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=16837
http://www.biobees.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=16854

Problem: The hive is coming up on 1 month old, it is late july, there is plenty of nice comb, but I do not see any brood, sealed or otherwise. I left for vacation about 2 weeks ago, and I have not looked for the queen yet (I felt my initial hive manipulations were very invasive and I wanted to give the bees some time to settle in) but the bee population seems lower than before I left. I think the queen left with a small swarm of bees. I have three option 1) do nothing and let the bees expire, 2) re-queen with the bees from the Lang hive (I have not been impressed with these the general traits/productivity/seeming survivability of these bees or 3) re-queen late in the game and hope for the best.
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biobee
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Joined: 14 Jun 2007
Posts: 1051
Location: UK, England, S. Devon

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2014 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This has happened to me a couple of times this year, and to others I have visited - swarm arrives, apparently with queen, builds comb, brings in pollen and nectar just as it should, then appears to be sluggish or dwindling and to take a look - NO QUEEN!

I don't know what's going on here, but I have seen it more in the last couple of seasons than during the previous decade.

Something seems to be causing queens to die before the bees notice they need to supersede. Is is disease? Pesticides? A genetic trait?
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IanT
Guard Bee


Joined: 21 Feb 2014
Posts: 51
Location: Lafayette, Indiana

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2014 1:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eek. I am so disappointed at the prospect of loosing this colony. They were really vivacious and looking so strong. It is possible that the queen laid some eggs before she "left" and that some where in there there is a new queen rolling around. Seems like a remote possibility though. I just can't think that requeening would work this late in the season.
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Barbara
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Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1564
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2014 2:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Ian. Was there no brood when you did the transfer on 4th July? If she was a mated queen (which is most likely if she was marked) then I would have expected there to have been plenty of brood at that time. If the brood has stopped since then, I would guess she was damaged in the transfer/comb trimming/collapse problems you experienced. Damaging 75% of the comb is pretty extensive! If she had no brood then, perhaps she was damaged or failing during the swarming/installation in the Lang.

It seems that this colony has had to cope with a lot of turmoil in it's first few weeks of homemaking and that would be where I would guess the problem has occurred. Of course, if there is no brood, then there is no possibility for them to make an emergency queen. Can you give them some eggs from another colony? It's still only mid July, and I know that's not too late to do this here, but I appreciate your conditions may be different.

Regards

Barbara
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IanT
Guard Bee


Joined: 21 Feb 2014
Posts: 51
Location: Lafayette, Indiana

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2014 2:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, the queen may have been damaged in some way when I found her, as the swarm was on the ground. When I transferred the comb, I specifically saw her crawl into the hive on one of the few top bars that made it. She was not on any comb that fell. She was marked so easy to spot. I have not gotten up in the bee's business since I replaced repaired comb. I Could take a frame of brood from the Lang that I have out at my friends farm (but like I said, I was not impressed with those bees, so I am not sure I want those genes). Or I could order a queen today. I have about 2 months, realistically, to get this hive ready to overwinter here in West Central Indiana.
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Barbara
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Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1564
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2014 5:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So you didn't see any brood when you did the transfer then? But I suppose it would have been mostly eggs and young larvae at that time, so not easy to see in pristine comb with bees crawling all over it and having to deal with comb breakage like that would mean that you were concentrating more on consolidating the damage than doing an inspection.

What makes you think there is no brood now if you say....

Quote:
I have not gotten up in the bee's business since I replaced repaired comb


You certainly need to check before you go to the trouble and expense of buying a new queen. I understand your reticence about using brood from the Lang hive with chalk brood and I entirely agree. Transferring brood will transfer spores and then you will have 2 colonies with chalk brood.

What sort of activity is going on at the entrance? Is there any pollen going in? Do they have any stores? The comb collapse will have set them back quite a bit, so it could just be that they are taking time to recover. Apologies if I am missing some important info regarding lack of brood, but I've lost track a bit with dotting back and forth between posts.

Regards

Barbara
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catchercradle
Golden Bee


Joined: 31 May 2010
Posts: 1487
Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2014 5:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If at all possible I would put in a sealed queen cell rather than a queen. It sounds to me as if it has been queenless long enough to have trouble introducing a bought queen and your chances are much better with a QC
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IanT
Guard Bee


Joined: 21 Feb 2014
Posts: 51
Location: Lafayette, Indiana

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2014 5:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No worries! Thanks for your attention and input. I would say decent activity at the entrance, however not nearly as active as when I first transferred the swarm from the swarm box to the HTBH. I see nectar when move the top bars aside and tangentially peek in and I see the bees bringing in pollen.

This is break down of the time line. I captured the swarm on June 27th and transferred it to the HTBH on July 4th. That is also the day I had the comb collapse, I specifically remember seeing the queen crawling around and not under and comb that had fallen. I was feeling good that I at least did not crush the queen. I think I let them be for about 2 or 3 days and then opened the hive, reached in and grabbed out the fallen comb, repaired it using wire and placed the rescued comb back in the hive. We will say that happened on July 6th. I checked them on 11th and then left for vacation. I got back on the 19th, and activity in the hive was less than when I had left. I was thinking that perhaps they had just "settled in". Checked them on the 20th by moving some top bars and peeking in and via the observation window. Lots of fairly large repaired and new comb. Some cross combing (one reason I have not gotten too invasive) but no caps that I can see.

So my thinking is that there should be at least 10 day old brood somewhere in there....

Thanks,
Ian
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Barbara
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Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1564
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2014 6:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Personally I wouldn't worry in that case.... but then I've never experienced a swarm go queenless (just a parent colony or 2 this season!).

They are acting queenright in all other respects, so it's just that you can't actually see any brood through the observation window and peering in at a few bars at the back. Is that right?

The reduced activity could be down to them building comb and looking after brood and also natural die off of quite a few of the original swarm members after this time. Is there much nectar available at the moment and do they have any stores? If they are short of food, that will account to lack of activity and brood, but then if they are building comb, there must be some nectar.
When you look in the observation window, can you see down between all the combs and if so, are there some that are more packed with bees than others? I would expect the brood combs to be so covered in bees that it would be difficult at this early stage to see any brood through the window anyway.

If you are unable to inspect them properly and ascertain that there is definitely no brood, then I would not consider requeening them. My advice would be to wait and see if things change in the next few weeks. Keep an eye out for orientation flights of new bees in thje afternoons in 3 weeks time and if you still suspect they are broodless in a month's time, unite them with that chalk brood nuc colony in the Lang, if you haven't taken it back for a refund!

I thought I had queenless colony that had developed a laying worker in one of my parent hives 2 weeks ago (multiple eggs in a few cells and no other brood and it was 5 weeks since they had swarmed). I was preparing to deal with it but had a quick peek last week to confirm before I started ripping things apart, only to be confronted with 2 frames of worker brood with an absolutely solid laying pattern. That is the third time that hive has fooled me and recovered from what appeared to be terminal decline.

Sometimes things are not always as they appear!

Good luck with them.

Barbara
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IanT
Guard Bee


Joined: 21 Feb 2014
Posts: 51
Location: Lafayette, Indiana

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2014 7:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Barbara wrote:
They are acting queenright in all other respects, so it's just that you can't actually see any brood through the observation window and peering in at a few bars at the back. Is that right?


Yeah, that is it distilled down...

Yeah, I have had to learn again and again with bees that sometimes it is best to sit and wait and let them show you. That is one reason why I have not busted in and started getting invasive just yet. I spoke with a queen supplier who did not have any right at this moment and he also said to wait and see, so that is what I shall do. It is too hot today for me to get in and look, the comb is too fresh and it will be too soft to risk more falling off, but I will look when the weather cools. I would say there are at least 4-5 nice combs from the top bars extended about 6 inches down...hopefully I will start to see it filling with capped brood. There is plenty of nectar forage available here in the city from yards, lots of summer native blooms, and clover too, so they have food, and I suspect with the rain we have had that will last until the later summer summer stuff starts to come on. Thanks for your insights.

Ian
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IanT
Guard Bee


Joined: 21 Feb 2014
Posts: 51
Location: Lafayette, Indiana

PostPosted: Sat Jul 26, 2014 7:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sooo. An update. I waited a week, still no visible sealed brood via the observation window. So, I got into the hive for a look see. No queen visible AND it seems I have a laying worker(s) because the comb is intermittently showing only drone brood. The pattern is spotty, and distributed through out the comb in no pattern, very typical laying worker type of thing. So, the question stands, is it worth it to get a queen? I really do not have access to brood/egg filled comb that I can insert to have them make their own. I can have a queen delivered by next week.
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IanT
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Joined: 21 Feb 2014
Posts: 51
Location: Lafayette, Indiana

PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2014 2:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Any sense it spending the $ on a queen and taking the chance of introducing her?
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Barbara
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Joined: 27 Jul 2011
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Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2014 3:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi again Ian

Really sad to hear that you have laying worker(s). I recently did a lot of work and soul searching whilst trying to requeen a laying worker colony for a friend. It is very intrusive and took two attempts over 2 weeks to get them to accept a new queen which I supplied for free and she was a related queen. If I had had to buy a queen and go through that procedure I would advise against it I think because the odds of success are low.

To requeen a laying worker colony, you firstly have to remove the laying workers. They will not accept a new queen with the laying worker(s) present.
This involves moving the whole hive to a new location about 30-40 yards away and putting an empty new hive at the old site, then brushing ALL the bees off the combs onto a sheet on the ground (the sheet allows you to see the laying workers that are left once the other bees have returned to the original site), cutting off all the (drone) brood and then placing what's left of the combs in the new hive which the bees will be flying back to. The laying workers are usually nurse bees that have never left the hive and therefore unable to fly back to it although they usually don't fly at all but just crawl around on the sheet.... perhaps like proper queens they are unable to fly without being slimmed down. Then introduce the new queen in a cage into the new hive and check in a few days to see if they have accepted her.

I tried to short cut this process by just carrying the combs away and brushing the bees off 30 yards away, but there must have been a laying worker on the hive wall that I didn't get because they showed no interest in the new queen when I checked a few days later and there were more eggs, so I had to give her back to the donor colony to build up again and then go through the whole procedure again a week later but using a new hive. Looks like we have been successful 2nd time and there were about 30 bees showing an interest in the queen in the cage when I checked a couple of days later, so I direct released her then but haven't been back to check for brood yet.... that's a job for tomorrow.

Anyway, I just wanted to make you realise that it is not as simple as hanging a replacement queen in a cage in the hive and letting them get on with it. Also, those bees are getting old and will be coming to the end of their lives soon, so they will almost certainly need feeding to save them from foraging as much (it is the hard work of foraging that wears bees out). In my friend's case, this sparked robbing by wasps, which is making life more difficult for the bees that are left, so they are battling the odds to survive now even with a new queen.

The last time I dealt with laying workers the colony ultimately didn't survive. Time will tell with this one. The weather is unusually hot and nectar is plentiful so they have a better chance than the last one did, I think.
If this one doesn't survive, I doubt I would carry out the process again in the future as it is stressful for bees and beekeeper.

Sorry to toll the death knell for your colony but I personally wouldn't attempt it in your situation.

Regards

Barbara
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biobee
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Joined: 14 Jun 2007
Posts: 1051
Location: UK, England, S. Devon

PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2014 4:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have just visited a (conventional) beekeeper friend and he has had three of his most productive colonies go unaccountably queenless after filling and re-filling three supers. Two of them had laying workers.

It happens that he was about to reduce his hive numbers, or we would have done exactly as Barbara describes above.
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IanT
Guard Bee


Joined: 21 Feb 2014
Posts: 51
Location: Lafayette, Indiana

PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2014 6:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh it is okay Barbara. I have never had this situation before, but all my reading indicates that I have only a very small chance of re-queening. If what was earlier in my season, I might try it….but I really do not even have room in back yard to do what you describe (well, just barely). I will just have to chalk it up to a bad year for bees maybe…I will probably put my lang that populated with that bad nuc, where the HTBH is and shake out the bees and boost population of that hive.
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Barbara
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2014 6:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That sounds like by far the best plan, that way those foragers are utilised for the benefit of the other colony and will hopefully give it a better chance of survival.
Good luck with them

Barbara
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