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No eggs 3 weeks after swarm

 
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Labow
Nurse Bee


Joined: 10 Mar 2016
Posts: 28
Location: San Francisco, CA

PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:19 am    Post subject: No eggs 3 weeks after swarm Reply with quote

Hi,

One of my hives swarmed about three weeks ago. I opened up the hive today, for the second time since the swarm, and I’m still not seeing any eggs. I also did not see a queen, but I really wasn’t looking for her, just some eggs. Also, not sure if this information matters, but they’re putting a lot of honey in the hive. Before the swarm there were several queen cells in the hive. Is it time to order a new queen? Thanks
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Barbara
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Joined: 27 Jul 2011
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Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2018 11:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In my experience it can go 4 weeks or longer even. I used to get anxious about it but I try not to any more. The longer the brood break the better as regards the varroa population being knocked right back and this may even be a deliberate varroa management ploy on their part. I know books often say that the new queen should be laying in a couple of weeks but my experience with multiple hives is contrary to that. Mine don't usually forage much either and just seem to have a summer holiday, lounging about at the entrance and just when I start to give up hope, brood is produced. They have plenty of comb and stores so all they need to do is raise brood when they are ready. This is relatively easy work compared to building comb and foraging, so it doesn't wear them out so quickly.

Is your colony still pretty strong as regards bee numbers? The fact that they are bringing in nectar and making honey suggests that they are still purposeful which usually indicates that they are queenright. How was their temperament when you were inspecting them?
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Labow
Nurse Bee


Joined: 10 Mar 2016
Posts: 28
Location: San Francisco, CA

PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2018 3:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, great to hear! As far as numbers, there are definitely less then normal, but it still seems like a decent amount. They've all moved to the front half of the hive for the past several days, maybe because the numbers are dropping?

I also forgot to mention that I did see bees bringing pollen in, which I believe is a good indicator that they're getting ready to raise some brood. Correct?

Regarding their temperament, they seemed pretty calm. I don't think I even smoked them.

So, if I'm still worried can I open it up again and look for a queen? or should I just leave them alone for another week and then look for brood?
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Barbara
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Joined: 27 Jul 2011
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Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2018 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes pollen going in is usually an indication that brood rearing is about to or has begun. Personally I would not disturb them again to look for a queen but I have plenty of other colonies so if they are not queenright, it would not be a big loss for me. If this is your only colony, then I can understand you wanting to be more sure of the situation, especially if you have a financial investment in them.... ie you purchased them, rather than a free swarm as all mine have been. Just be very careful to keep the combs over the hive during your inspection. Young queens can be quite flighty and there is a risk that she could run off the edge of the comb and fall on the ground unnoticed if you don't keep it over the hive.
Good luck whatever you decide and please come back and update this thread in a few weeks when you know what they are up to.
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Labow
Nurse Bee


Joined: 10 Mar 2016
Posts: 28
Location: San Francisco, CA

PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2018 5:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wanted to add a little information, and ask another question. This hive has swarmed twice this season, and they were fairly close to each other. I'm not seeing any drones (just looking through the side window), which is making me think that all the drones either fertilized the queen after the first swarm, and then died, or left with this last swarm.

I have one other hive that was started about a little over a month ago from the first swarm. They have about 10 combs drawn out, some with drone on them. I'm thinking that part of my problem is that there are no drones to fertilize the new queen, so should I take a bar with drone brood from the new hive and put it into the one in question? I'm just nervous about taking from a new hive. thanks
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Barbara
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Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2018 6:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mating takes place outside the hive so it does not matter if there are drones in the hive with a virgin queen or not, although usually she will attract them and they are welcome from any colony and will usually escort her up to the local drone congregation area for mating.
If it is 3 weeks since they last swarmed she should be mated by now, but that doesn't mean she has to start laying straight away. I would be surprised if there are no drones in the hive but I would say that looking through the window is not an accurate way of assessing that. Usually there is quite a high population of them in a hive that has swarmed and they tend to end up getting kicked out towards the end of the summer when they are no longer needed rather than dying off naturally.
I would be quite surprised if your new colony from the swarm is producing drones. That is unusual because they have a lot of work to do and raising drones is an unnecessary drain on their resources. There may be drones in the hive that came with the swarm or are visiting from other hives but actually producing drone brood would concern me. Then again, conditions in San Francisco are probably very different to conditions in the UK, so the bees may respond differently.
I would therefore not raid the swarm's resources to donate to the parent hive and certainly not for the purpose of giving them drones as this serves no purpose. Worker eggs and larvae could be used to create an emergency queen if they have been left queenless, but you risk the survival of the swarm by taking them at this stage when they still have limited resources.

For your information when the prime swarm leaves, there are approximately 10 days before the next swarm emerges. After that more swarms may leave in the following few days before they settle down, so depending upon how close to each other the swarms you saw were, would give you an indication of whether you missed the prime swarm. If there were just a couple of days between the swarms you saw then they were likely both cast swarms with virgin queens and you missed the prime swarm.
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Labow
Nurse Bee


Joined: 10 Mar 2016
Posts: 28
Location: San Francisco, CA

PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 2:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for all of the information Barbara. I didn't realize that the drones don't necessarily need to be from the hive that the queen is in. If they're not in the hive how do they find her? Pheromones?

The new hive is definitely producing drones. I found 3 bars that had some capped drone brood cells. You said you might be concerned about this, what could it mean?

Could you explain a little more about prime swarms vs the swarms after the prime? Who goes when, what happens? I'm trying to remember exactly how it went, but this hive did swarm a couple of times in a short amount of time. Maybe even 3 times. However, a day or two before the last swarm there were capped queen cells in the hive, so I figured that queen should still be in the hive, but I don't know. I could be remembering the timeline wrong.
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Barbara
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2018 12:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Keeping records of exactly what you see during each inspection can be really helpful. Things like number of combs with brood on and if it is mostly capped or open. Which bars queen cells are seen on and if they are open and occupied or sealed. How many bars of stores they have etc .

When a hive is preparing to swarm, they will produce queen cells. There are normally somewhere between 5 and 15 queen cells (referred to as swarm cells) produced at various stages of construction and occupancy. About 3 days before they are ready to swarm, they start to starve the queen. By then she will have laid into all the queen cells that are of a suitable size. She will usually stop laying during those final days and lose weight so that she is able to fly. Around the day that the first queen cell is capped (8 days from the egg in it being laid, the old queen leaves the hive with the prime swarm. She cannot fly far so they will cluster somewhere nearby and scouts will look for a new home. If they are not captures and hived they will move on either to a suitable home that has been found by the scouts or another resting place a few hundred yards away and scouts will continue looking further afield. Approx half of the flying bees from the hive will leave with the queen in that prime swarm, but there are so many baby bees hatching out all the time that the hive will usually still appear really crowded and active and many people do not realise that they have lost a swarm.

During the next 10 days or so, those queen larvae in the swarm cells will pupate and hatch. The hatching will be staggered.... ie they will not all hatch on the same day but over a period or about 5 days. The first virgin queen to hatch will usually leave the hive with a swarm consisting of about half to a third of the flying bees. This is the first cast swarm. Again the queen cannot fly far as she is fairly newly hatched, so they will cluster nearby and look for a home. In the next few days the other virgin queens will hatch out. One or two may also swarm but the size of the swarms will get progressively smaller as the hive population becomes depleted. There will come a point where the colony decide that no further swarms can be produced. Any remaining queens will either fight it out for survival or unhatched queens will be killed in their cocoon. This is where many books will say that the new queen should start laying within 10-11 days of the final swarm leaving, but in my experience it can be as long as 4 weeks.

So if you say that the prime swarm with the old mated queen leaves on day 1 then about 10 days later the first cast swarm will leave and over the following few days up to about day 15 after the prime swarm, further cast swarms may emerge, sometimes with 2 or even 3 virgin queens in the same swarm. Prime swarms are large and hit the ground running as far as building a new home. The queen is already mated and ready to lay, so as soon as they have build some comb, she will start laying eggs and the colony builds up quickly. Cast swarms with virgin queens are smaller and take a bit longer to get going. The queen usually takes about 10-11 days to mate and start laying, so that puts them nearly 3 weeks behind a prime swarm and in our British weather that can make a big difference. If you are able to give a cast swarm some empty drawn brood comb from another hive, that can give them a big boost because building comb is very hard work and used up a lot of nectar in energy.

When a swarm sets up home, the first thing they need to do is build comb. That is their priority. Then they need to raise brood because the swarm bees have a very finite lifespan so there needs to be a new generation of bees hatched and working before they die. Those new bees will then continue the work of building comb but at a much slower pace because the colony can usually overwinter on the broodnest that the swarm bees build in those first 4 weeks. The priority of this second generation is to raise more baby bees and start to bring in stores. It's kind of like there are 3 main tasks (building comb, raising brood and laying down stores) and each generation of bees can usually only do 2 of the 3 or one and 2 halves so build a bit more comb, store a bit of honey and raise the next generation of brood.
In late summer the queen starts to cut back on her brood nest, so the adult workers have less work raising babies and can devote more time to gathering nectar for honey to keep them alive through winter.

I hope that all makes sense.

The reason I am concerned about your swarm colony producing drone brood is that drones are superfluous to the colony at that stage unless they are planning to swarm again. Drones don't do any of the 3 tasks I outlined and they eat resources which the new colony cannot usually afford. The queen is mated so there is no real use for drones. Granted, the weather this summer is allowing the bees to boom and a swarm captured in May or even early June might manage to build up and swarm again this season if there is a good local nectar flow, so if that hive is booming and has plenty of stores and is producing drone brood then it may well be their intention to swarm again. If the hive is doing OK but not expanding massively then the queen might be poorly mated. Both would be cause for concern in my opinion.

To summarise:-

Day 1.............Prime swarm emerges with old queen. First swarm cell capped
Day 2-9..........Other swarm cells capped and pupate.
Day 10 ..........First queen emerges from swarm cell and cast swarm may emerge
Day 11-15......Other virgin queens hatch and further cast swarms may emerge
Day 16+.........Hive should stabilise but may take as long as 4 weeks to raise brood

It should be noted that the parent hive usually has plenty of comb and stores, so 2 out of the 3 requirements of a colony are already met and since the bees that are left are young and don't need to work themselves to death they live longer and they can afford to take things easy and hang fire on the brood rearing. The longer the brood break, the lower the varroa mite population will be. Whether that is a strategy on the part of the bees or just an accidental benefit is hard to say.

The above is based on my own experience with my dark mongrel bees in the North East UK climate, so bear that in mind when you comparing to your own situation, but the approx 10 days between prime swarm and the first cast swarm is pretty standard I believe.
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Labow
Nurse Bee


Joined: 10 Mar 2016
Posts: 28
Location: San Francisco, CA

PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2018 4:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you so much for the write up! This is great information. I knew the basics of why they swarm, but this year was the first time I've had multiple swarms from the same hive so close to each other. I didn't realize they did that, so this information really cleared it up for me. I'll check on the hive tomorrow or Saturday, and then I'll update the forum and let you know what I found.

Thanks again.
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Labow
Nurse Bee


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Location: San Francisco, CA

PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2018 2:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There were eggs in the cells when I checked on Friday so everything looks good for now. Thanks for all of the help!
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Barbara
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2018 7:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That is great news. Pleased to hear that bees half way across the world show similar behaviour/timescales to mine when left to their own devices. Thanks for letting us know.
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