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Queenless colony - what to do next?

 
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druidsgarden
Nurse Bee


Joined: 09 Jul 2014
Posts: 32
Location: Morecambe, Lancashire

PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2016 6:25 pm    Post subject: Queenless colony - what to do next? Reply with quote

So I finally managed to get into my bee's this evening to check on them. I've been ill with flu and/or it's been raining heavily when I've been able to go work them.

I'm still on Nationals btw and I've found a situation that I've never had to deal with before in July. I think I know what I'm going to do but I thought I'd get some other opinions first.

I've got 3 colonies, the first is my original queen in it, she's laying well and there is plenty of brood in there. Good brood pattern. Still on single brood

The second is the nuc split I did a month ago, moved it from the nuc into a full brood chamber this evening, beautiful laying pattern from the Queen, typical rugby ball shape, so I'm very happy.

It's my original colony that's the problem, I left it with two Queen cells and was expecting to see a laying Queen in there tonight, however there is just a bit of pollen and alot of honey.

So do I:

a) Put a frame of eggs and a frame of uncapped brood from the other two colonies and hope they raise a new Queen even though it's going to be later in the season when she's ready?

b) Reunite one of the smaller colonies with the main, probably the newest colony

c) Buy in a new queen?

I'm leaning towards option B as this is the quickest and probably safest option as long as they don't kill the new Queen but I'm tempted to go with a) because I'd really like to take 3 colonies into Winter ready for Spring next year.

What do other people think?
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Barbara
Site Admin


Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1567
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2016 9:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When did you do the split? And how was the colony temperament wise when you inspected.... did they act queenless?

Although I don't do splits but I have found that after swarming, my parent colonies seem to take a break....summer holiday if you like. They have gone as long as 4 weeks from the last cast swarm emerging before they start producing brood again and I have been convinced on more than one occasion that they must have been left queenless, only to find eggs when I thought all hope was lost. I think there is no imperative in the parent hive for them to swing straight into action..... there is no comb to build and usually plenty of stores, so they just sit back and chill for a few weeks. The advantage of this holiday is that there is a long brood break which means varroa population drops right back and the bees are not working hard foraging, so they live longer and are still able to raise the next generation when it eventually arrives.

Obviously I can't say for certain that your hive is queenright or not but perhaps if they didn't behave like they are queenless, then they may not be.
On the other hand, if they were loud and agitated from the moment you lifted the crown board, then they probably are.

If you are really concerned, then I would give them some brood from a sister colony and see what they do with it. If your other option is recombining them, then there is nothing much lost in trying them with some brood first for a week or so and seeing what happens.

Please post back with results, as I think this summer brood break/holiday is perhaps more common than you would expect.

Regards

Barbara
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druidsgarden
Nurse Bee


Joined: 09 Jul 2014
Posts: 32
Location: Morecambe, Lancashire

PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2016 9:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's really interesting Barbara because they are still the quiet busy happy bee's that they were when I first got them. Infact they just ignored me and stayed on the comb.

I have managed to go down there and watch them and they've been busy.

My beesuit split along a hem this evening whilst I was in there and it's quite significant but they made no attempt to sting me. They are on double brood and there is absolutely loads of honey in there.

I did the split on the 7th June, my notes from that day were

Quote:
The nuc now has a full sized brood chamber to play in and I saw eggs and the Queen working.


This is my original Queen, I did a remove split.

Quote:

The main colony has so much honey on it, it's going to need a couple of supers as soon as the new Queen is laying properly. I broke down the vast amount of Queen cells to two nice big fat ones drawn out in the centre of the comb.


This is the colony that hasn't any eggs or brood

Quote:

As I'm going away tomorrow until next Monday, I've also weakened them slightly again by pulling off another nuc with Queen cells, there was a superb looking one and a smaller one. If that doesn't do anything I'll just reunite the bee's with one of the other colonies.


This is my split that I put into a full sized brood chamber tonight, loads of sealed brood in there so she's been laying for about a week.

I think I'll go for the frame of eggs option then and see what happens in a week. I just don't want it turning into a drone laying colony.
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druidsgarden
Nurse Bee


Joined: 09 Jul 2014
Posts: 32
Location: Morecambe, Lancashire

PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 11:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just finished in my bees this morning, had given them a few more days for the Queen in the main hive to start laying if she was there.

However there is no sign of a Queen and they weren't as happy as the other two colonies, lots of fanning going on and I noticed a couple of queen cups.

So I took a frame of eggs and brood from the original Queen and gave them that. Hopefully they'll be Queen-right in a month or so, I'll check them next week to see what they are doing with it.

The other two colonies look fine brood and eggs-wise, the original Queen colony however is very low on stores, infact they have hardly any. I'm going to have to keep a close eye on them to make sure they don't starve. I may put a feed on them tonight, just to give them a bit of a boost.

The nucleus that I transferred into the brood chamber on Tuesday is going great guns, I can see them moving onto the new foundation and they've plenty of stores.

I'm really hoping that the weather settles down because we are reaching the point where the next honey flow is due and I really would like to get some honey, even if it's just one super, this year as well as give them time to build up for winter.

I've noticed it's much harder to get any honey off colonies now than it was when I first started beekeeping 9 years ago. That first year the weather was fantastic and my nucleus built up almost overnight. I took off over 60lbs of honey from them that first year and they still had loads and loads of stores. I will only feed a colony for winter when it needs it, I've never depleted one of all it's stores and then fed them with sugar.

Granted I split them so I wouldn't get any swarming. I have to control swarming where I am as it's right in the middle of suburbia and I'm surrounded by neighbours gardens. I upset alot of neighbours the year I had a colony that wouldn't stop swarming.
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druidsgarden
Nurse Bee


Joined: 09 Jul 2014
Posts: 32
Location: Morecambe, Lancashire

PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2016 2:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quick update on this, checked through my bees last night and I'm delighted to say I've now got a laying Queen in the Queenless colony, nice laying pattern and plenty of eggs! They've also got so much honey!

However I've now got the colony with the original Queen trying to build Queen cells! It's a crazy season! I found a large almost sealed Queen Cell and two other cells that were charged.

I'm really confused why they would want to build Queen cells at this time of year, the Queen is only 12 months old and has been laying very strongly so shouldn't be failing and they have plenty of space. My only thought is I bought her as a nuc and she's a clipped Queen, maybe they've decided to supercede her?

I don't know what is going on but I'm going to stick a super on them this weekend and just double check them. I thought I had seen eggs but now I'm worried I just thought I had.
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Adam Rose
Silver Bee


Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 582
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2016 3:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, it's a supercedure. It's perfectly normal at this time of year. For whatever reason, they have decided they want a new queen for the winter. You will end up with a better queen. Are you also seeing plenty of drones around ?

The issue of space is irrelevant. Lack of space can trigger swarming but it has nothing to do with supercedure.

I would try not to inspect too much. Just leave them to get on with it.
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Adam Rose
Silver Bee


Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 582
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2016 3:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A useful link : http://www.dave-cushman.net/bee/supersedure.html
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druidsgarden
Nurse Bee


Joined: 09 Jul 2014
Posts: 32
Location: Morecambe, Lancashire

PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2016 3:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In 10 years of beekeeping I've never had a colony do a supersedure before!

Although I'm in Nationals, I don't do drone culling or anything like that so yes I've loads of drones around, big fat dark black ones.

I'll stick a super on them, make sure there are still some eggs and I've not inadvertently made them Queenless. They are on double brood and the big Queen cell was on the bottom of a frame in the top box and the top of one of the bottom frames so as I split them to check what was going on in the bottom box I ripped the top off.

I'm not inspection happy, I'd rather I didn't have to inspect because I just don't like disturbing them when they are perfectly happy, however I can't just leave them to get on with it because I'm in a very suburban area and I can't let them swarm as it really upsets the neighbours. I've run into problems with that happening in the past so I need to be cautious with their management.
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Adam Rose
Silver Bee


Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 582
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2016 3:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

druidsgarden wrote:

I don't know what is going on but I'm going to stick a super on them this weekend and just double check them.


Just a question about this : why are you sticking on a super ? Have they completely filled whatever other supers you have ? Or is it a reaction to seeing queen cells ? If the former, fair enough, but your bees aren't swarming, so there's no reason to stick on a super for that reason. All it will do is create a lot of cold air above the colony that they will have to heat up.
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druidsgarden
Nurse Bee


Joined: 09 Jul 2014
Posts: 32
Location: Morecambe, Lancashire

PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2016 4:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Adam Rose wrote:
druidsgarden wrote:

I don't know what is going on but I'm going to stick a super on them this weekend and just double check them.


Just a question about this : why are you sticking on a super ? Have they completely filled whatever other supers you have ? Or is it a reaction to seeing queen cells ? If the former, fair enough, but your bees aren't swarming, so there's no reason to stick on a super for that reason. All it will do is create a lot of cold air above the colony that they will have to heat up.


Simply because they are fairly honey bound on the double brood and there isn't a super on them at the moment. The reason for inspecting them in the first place was to check how full they were
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