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Possible Queen Loss/Laying Workers in Brand New TBH

 
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BaltimoreUrbanBee
House Bee


Joined: 19 Dec 2013
Posts: 12
Location: USA, Baltimore City, Maryland

PostPosted: Thu May 15, 2014 4:05 pm    Post subject: Possible Queen Loss/Laying Workers in Brand New TBH Reply with quote

Hello. I am brand new at beekeeping. I did a ton of research and I feel very good about what I know. But as you all know, experience is the only way really to learn something like beekeeping.

I installed a 3lb package on April 21. Although it seemed like everything was going wrong during installation, the end result was perfect. 4 days later, I went in and removed the empty queen cage. They had already drawn comb on 3 or 4 bars at that point. The bar with the queen cage has a split where the cage was hanging down, but it's not hurting anything. Pollen and nectar stores looked great and I even saw some eggs. All was going very smoothly.

I left the country from April 27 for 7 days. The moment I returned home on May 4, I went up and checked on the girls. They had drawn one or two more bars of comb, but the very end comb was doubled, parallel on one bar (my bars are a little wide, but manageable). Since it was such a small piece they had just started, I figured it would be no problem to just chop it off and keep it for myself.

When I chopped it off, it was covered with bees. The piece hit the ground and they all went flying. I closed up the hive and carried my little piece in. Upon closer inspection, the cells had freshly laid eggs in them. I thought it peculiar that such a small piece of comb had eggs already, but I proceeded to squish it into a cube anyway and stored it away.

I left the hive alone for another week and checked on it a few days ago. Pretty much no more comb has been built since the day I took the little piece. Every comb that is in there has a nice formation of brood, pollen and nectar. However, every bit brood is drone! It looks like they had built small worker cells and as the larvae grew, they are building the cell out to accommodate a drone.

On the bar that had the queen cage hanging, it looks like they are building a queen cup in the split, but I can't really tell because I don't really have a trained eye yet for these things. I can't see how they can raise a queen anyway if no worker/female brood is being laid.

I'm thinking the queen was on that little piece of comb when I cut it off. I looked for her on Monday and Tuesday and did not see her. Tuesday is when I finally made the observation of the possible queen cup. Another observation I made on Tuesday; the workers abdomens looks a little elongated... almost like what you would expect to see from laying workers. Here is a picture of the comb nearest to the entrance of the hive (smaller/newer than others that contain brood). https://baltimoreurbanbee.shutterfly.com/pictures/9
Sorry if the link doesn't work- not sure how else to share pictures.

I'm not sure what to do. Should I wait to see what comes of this "queen cup" and leave them alone? Should I re-queen immediately? I only have one hive right now, so supplementing from another isn't an option.

Thanks for any help!
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Barbara
Site Admin


Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1563
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2014 3:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi

I've read and re read your account several times but the situation is still not clear. I understand that on the 4th May you may have lost your queen out of the hive when you cut the "piggy backed" comb off and dropped it on the ground.
A week later you seem to be saying that all the brood is drone brood. This doesn't make sense unless the original queen was a drone layer as there should be plenty of brood left that the original queen laid before you dropped her, even if it is mostly capped. Also laying workers usually take longer to develop than a week and even then you would only be seeing their eggs at such an early stage of being queenless and therefore unable to tell that they were drone brood. Laying workers generally only develop once there is no brood left in the hive.

Personally I think you are convincing yourself that you have a more of a problem than you do. It's certainly possible that you dropped the queen out of the hive and that they are making an emergency replacement from an egg that the original queen laid, but I would have liked to have seen some pictures of all the drone brood you believe you saw. The photo you have posted really doesn't help as there is no obvious drone brood on it.

As regards some of the bees having larger abdomens, there is usually a variation in size with younger bees being smaller than mature ones and also with a package, you may well have bees from different colonies and perhaps even different breeds all thrown together, which could account for it, so I think you are reading too much into this.
I find it strange that you think you can identify a laying worker by sight (something that I would not be confident of with 15 yrs experience) and you can identify drone brood but you don't think you have a "trained eye yet" to confirm a queen cell/cup. Of all those things, the queen cup or cell would probably be the easiest to pick out in my opinion.

There is one thing for sure, they will not try to make an emergency queen from a drone cell, so if you did see a queen cell then the bees have matters in hand to rectify the situation and the big lesson to learn is always keep comb over the hive whenever you are handling it, because if you drop the queen out, she will usually not be able to get back in.

Did you see any young brood when you inspected them.... ie eggs and young larvae.... or was it mostly large larvae and capped brood?

Such a shame that you crushed that comb with eggs on it instead of reattaching it to another top bar or even just propping it up against the follower board. Again, a mistake to learn from.

I would give it a few more days and then check that suspected queen cell again as it should be capped by then. Very gently blow on the bees to move them away from it, so that you can see it more clearly (beware no garlic or banana breath) and handle it very gently. Take a photo if you can. If it is a queen cell and it's capped then all should be well. If there is no new brood and no queen cell, then you will need to buy a new queen asap.

Good luck and keep us updated with what happens.

Best wishes

Barbara
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catchercradle
Golden Bee


Joined: 31 May 2010
Posts: 1486
Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2014 6:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If there is only drone brood and it is an even pattern that would indicate a drone laying queen who has not been adequately fertilised rather than laying workers which produce a much more patchy brood pattern.
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BaltimoreUrbanBee
House Bee


Joined: 19 Dec 2013
Posts: 12
Location: USA, Baltimore City, Maryland

PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2014 2:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your replies.

I'm sorry- I do try to be as clear and detailed as possible... You are right, I am probably freaking out over nothing. I tend to believe the worst case scenario is taking place and all ends up turning out well- something I need to work on or else I will never be a master beekeeper.

On May 4, all larvae (from what I can remember) were small and uncapped- everything was and still is in a nice pattern. I couldn't tell at that point if they were drone brood or worker brood. Only when I checked this past Tuesday did I notice that everything that was capped looked like drone brood because of how bulbous the caps were. The suspected queen cup is in a weird spot between a split in the comb where the queen cage was hanging when they began building on this particular bar- which is why I mentioned that my "untrained eye" couldn't identify 100%.

Perhaps the original queen is/was a drone layer or insufficiently mated. She was on the smaller side... There are very young workers in there, but very few. The only reasons I thought I had laying workers was because I thought their abdomens should be no longer than their wings and many of the workers do have, IMHO, elongated abdomens; also that I think every bit is drone larva. But again, I could be reading into this too far- especially since you say it takes longer than a week for them to develop into laying workers (how long does that take?).

I know for sure that I had varying ages and breeds in my original package (a mix of Russian, Carniolan and Italian). And now that I think about it, there were a few very young larvae in some cells (just slightly larger than an egg) when I checked on Tuesday and it was only one egg per cell- which would not be characteristic of laying workers, right?

The purpose of the picture I posted was to see if anyone could identify laying workers. I took a video but I haven't had a chance to upload it yet and frankly, it's not very good quality due to my shaky hand. Instead, I took some screen shots of the video. Some are not very clear, but here they are just in case:
1) A view of what I believe are capped and uncapped drone brood- this is what all the capped brood looks like in the entire hive. They are all laid in a nice, queen-characteristic pattern. Again, hard to tell- my apologies.
https://baltimoreurbanbee.shutterfly.com/pictures/12
https://baltimoreurbanbee.shutterfly.com/pictures/10

2) This is my suspected queen cup. In the first picture it is at the very bottom and slightly to the right. In the second picture, it is closer to the center of the picture- but this one is pretty blurry. This is the best I can do for now.
https://baltimoreurbanbee.shutterfly.com/pictures/13
https://baltimoreurbanbee.shutterfly.com/pictures/11

In hindsight, I agree that it was a terrible mistake to crush that piece of comb. I mean, it was only about 3 inches wide and there were only about 3-5 eggs total. I did consider attaching it to the next bar because every little bit counts in bee-world and they did work very hard for it, so now I am kicking myself. Lesson learned!

Again, I could be totally misdiagnosing everything. I would like to believe that everything is fine no matter what and they will handle this. My panic is caused because it's a brand new hive and I do not know how to save it should anything be going wrong. If nothing else, all this information could help someone else in the future, so it didn't hurt to ask.

I will post an update when I have more info. Thanks again.

-Roy
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Barbara
Site Admin


Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1563
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2014 3:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi again

Thanks for the further information.

Pretty certain you haven't got a laying worker. Don't know where this info comes from re the abdomen being longer than the wings.... pretty well all my bees have longer abdomens than wings(I've just been out to look!), so as far as I'm concerned that is misinformation. One or more nurse bees develop ovaries when there is no queen pheremone to suppress their development and no brood which also generates a chemical suppressant. Generally there is brood for 2-3 weeks after a queen is lost from the hive, during which time they will try to make an emergency queen. So a laying worker will usually develop 2-3 weeks after the loss of the queen.

The photos aren't very clear but you do appear to have drone brood so the queen may be failing and/or they may be intending to supercede her in which case they will need drones for her to mate with. I believe it is quite common practice for package bees to replace the queen they are given. The queen cell being located in that slot/crevice in the middle of the comb is a typical location for a queen cell. Again it's not a great photo to see clearly what is going on but it looks like they are endeavoring to replace her, so I would check on it in a few more days as I suggested in my previous post.

Am I right that this is the package that was damaged when you collected it? (I did a bit of back reading of your previous posts) I wonder if the queen got damaged in transit. Can I ask, are you feeding them? I would have expected a lot more comb to have been built than 4-5 bars in the time since you installed them. Package bees need to be fed to get them started.

Anyway, keep fingers crossed that they are sorting things themselves but check them in a few days. Look for eggs and young larvae as well as inspecting the progress of that queen cell and try to gently move the bees off it so that you can see it more clearly and ensure that it is occupied and hopefully capped.

I know it must be very worrying when this is your first hive and you have invested a lot of money in it and you read about all the many things that can go wrong, but actually bees are amazingly resilient and can overcome some pretty big bungles on the beekeepers behalf (believe me I know!) so try to relax and look for the positives, not the problems.

Best wishes

Barbara
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BaltimoreUrbanBee
House Bee


Joined: 19 Dec 2013
Posts: 12
Location: USA, Baltimore City, Maryland

PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2014 8:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Come to find out, I was not paranoid. Somehow, the queen was lost. I have no idea what happened to her, but either way, they never replaced her and the population dwindled very quickly. Within a few weeks, I had ~100 bees in the entire hive. Now, I probably have under 30.

Frankly, I am not even sure how any bees are still able to live in there. Ants are clearing out the leftover stores/dead brood and making life quite miserable for the remaining few. The last time I checked, I was quite surprised to still find bees clustered in a small section of comb near to the entrance. Needless to say, they became quite agitated when I came bursting through... and I was wearing no protection. Shocked No stings to date, though!

I should have been more diligent and re-queened when my gut told me to.... The colony is lost; mid-summer, no less. I have no hope of restoring in time for them to build up stores for winter. What a waste. I will try again next spring... Sad
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