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live queen out of hive on ground?

 
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maria05
New Bee


Joined: 09 Jul 2014
Posts: 5
Location: Berea, KY, USA

PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 6:32 pm    Post subject: live queen out of hive on ground? Reply with quote

I am a new tbh beekeeper, and installed my package in early May. Everything has been going really well, and my mentor saw the hive 2 weeks ago and said it looked really healthy. Lots of comb, eggs, larvae, some capped honey, good laying pattern, etc.

I haven't seen the queen in awhile (she was marked), but there was evidence that she was there and healthy. There were a few queen cells, but he said that was normal and not to worry since there was nothing in them.

Fast forward 2 weeks. I checked my hive about 9 days ago, and everything still looked good. But today, I saw what seems like all the bees swarm to a nearby tree, then came back to the hive a couple of hours later.

When things settled down, I went out to the hive, and they were bearding heavily at the opening. And there was a queen under the hive on the ground!! There were no other bees around her, and she didn't seem to fly much or very far off the ground. She is not my original queen because she was not marked.

Here's what I found inside the hive:
1. No visible eggs, larvae, and very little capped brood. Lots of uncapped honey.
2. Nearly all capped brood are drone.
3. Huge number of bees in the back just hanging from empty bars.
4. Much less bees than normal on the front combs.
5. There was one queen cell that had hatched (opened lid attached).
6. About 6 capped queen cells.

My mentor verified (from a photo) that the bee on the ground was a queen, and is dumbfounded. Why was she down there all alone? I would have thought that if the hive rejected her for some reason, they would be attacking her? Earlier, I had seen her (alone) in the grass about 10 feet from the hive.

I am in KY, USA, and the temps have been in the 80s. Summer dearth has begun.

Any ideas? Advice?

Thanks, Maria
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Che Guebuddha
Golden Bee


Joined: 31 Jan 2012
Posts: 1549
Location: Hårlev, Stevns Kommune, Denmark

PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2014 10:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Her wing is probably cut by the beekeeper who sold you the package so she can't swarm. This is a perversed swarm control if you ask me. What happens is the bees leave the hive to swarm and push the queen out to fly withem since no queen likes to leave their home. Since wing is clipped she falls down and the swarm returns to the hive because they can't start a new family without a queen. Place her back into the hive but first spray her with sugar water and spray the bees also where you place her. Don't put her on the entrance. Place her from the back. Guard bees might kill her.
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Dexter's shed
Scout Bee


Joined: 16 May 2014
Posts: 307
Location: Grays, Essex, UK

PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2014 11:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Che Guebuddha wrote:
Her wing is probably cut by the beekeeper who sold you the package so she can't swarm.


the OP has already stated this was not her original queen,(not marked) so I doubt that she was clipped, probably pushed out before having time to dry wings after hatching,

it sounds to me like your first queen has long gone in a first prime swarm, leaving behind those charged queen cells (never take anything for granted when someone say's "don't worry" )

then a qc has hatched, and tried throwing a cast swarm (which is queen on ground)

either place that queen back inside or edge your bets, put her into a new nuc, with plain foundation and shake in half of the bees from your hive, you may want to cage her whilst doing that, that gives her and the other bees the impression they have swarmed,
you then have the insurance that either one or both can become Q+
if only one works out, you can combined both back together at a later date

or keep up the "hands free" approach, do nothing, let them sort it out, I reckon you'll still end up with a Q+ colony, be it a little smaller than you had
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Barbara
Site Admin


Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1564
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2014 6:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My guess is that they superceded your original queen as package bees often seem to do and the new queen has swarmed but is perhaps not strong enough yet to fly far and has flopped to the ground and then climbed up the hive.
The virgin queens that I have found have always been too small for a novice beekeeper to recognise as a queen and indeed I have often only identified them on really close inspection, as a result of their attendant bee's behaviour, so without intending any slur on your beekeeping ability, I think the queen you were looking at was a mated queen from your hive but not the original queen from the package, which is probably long since dead.

I have had a swarm land in long grass next to the hive looking like a messy cow pat and I have never had a queen with clipped wings, so I know that it happens but it is an easy assumption to make and one that I have probably wrongly made myself on occasion.

Did you manage to recover her and put her back into the original hive or into another hive with the swarm? If you put her back, she will either be killed or swarm again, hopefully more successfully this time.

Regards

Barbara
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maria05
New Bee


Joined: 09 Jul 2014
Posts: 5
Location: Berea, KY, USA

PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2014 1:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you all. I am very new to this, and it is certainly a learning process. They are complex and magnificent little creatures!

I did not put the queen back into the hive. By the time I got the reply, I couldn't find her. However, when I opened the hive the next day, clearly about half the bees had gone. I was under the impression that they usually do this when they run out of room, but half my hive was empty. What else could cause them to swarm?

There were more hatched (or destroyed) queen cells since the previous day, and I did find a small queen (not the same one I saw on the ground the day before). When I pulled out the next bar, I saw another queen, or maybe the same one that just jumped to the next comb. I'm not sure. Since several queen cells were opened during the previous 24 hours, maybe they hadn't fought to the death yet.

I had to cut my inspection short because rain was imminent.

The strange thing was that the hive was VERY quiet. Silent, even. Except what sounded like one lone bee making a very high pitched whine. Is this the "queenless" buzz I've heard about, maybe?

Something was definitely up, not sure if good or bad. I don't have the experience to tell. There is what seems like normal activity happening at the hive opening again, so I will inspect today or tomorrow and see what is going on.

No offense taken from any advice to this new beekeeper! I have taken classes and have support from a local top bar group, but what I have learned did not cover this situation.

Thanks again, Maria
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Barbara
Site Admin


Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1564
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2014 2:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi again Maria

I've just reread your original post seem to have skipped over a lot of info the first time around.

The day you saw them swarm and return to the hive and found a queen on the ground, is the day you found an opened queen cell in the hive and not much capped brood, so from that we can establish that the prime swarm left about a week earlier and you must have missed it. The queen you found on the ground must therefore have been a virgin after all.

The prime swarms leaves within a day or two of the queen cells being capped and they pupate for 8 days, which is why I make the above inference.

Most people find that their hive is still chock a block with bees when they check it and can't believe that it can have swarmed. If you are seeing half the bees missing then there will have been 1 or 2 cast swarms that have gone also. The reason is that the prime swarm leaves just as most of the hive is full of developing and capped worker brood. When that hatches, it makes the hive look full again. But then there is no more brood developing and so the cast swarms really appear to deplete the population.

The high pitched buzzing you hear will almost certainly be a hatched virgin queen "piping" ..... calling to other queens. Other hatched queens will also make a similar noise in response and you can sometimes hear there are two different tones. Capped queens that are still waiting to hatch will make more of a a quacking sound. This enables the hatched queen to locate them and kill them or perhaps if conditions are good, leave the hive knowing that there is another queen to take over.

If I were you I would not disturb the hive again as you may damage/lose the virgin queen you have left and they have no way of making an emergency queen now, so it is quite a critical time.
If the hive is very low on stores and you are entering a dearth, then I would reduce the entrance down to one hole and feed them some 1:1 syrup.

Good luck with them whatever you decide though.

Regards

Barbara

PS. As regards swarming before the hive is full, this often happens. Swarming is their means of reproducing and they will usually do it when conditions allow the best chance of swarm survival rather than only when they run out of room. Giving them plenty of room to expand in the right place at the right time can suppress the urge, but it's still not a guaranteed result.


Last edited by Barbara on Sat Jul 12, 2014 2:46 pm; edited 1 time in total
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maria05
New Bee


Joined: 09 Jul 2014
Posts: 5
Location: Berea, KY, USA

PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2014 2:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Barbara.

I think your timing of the first swarm is very likely. We were on vacation, and I did not check the hive for 9 days.

I will leave everything alone for awhile (a week?) and see what happens.

Is there anything I should have done differently to prevent this? Or should I just let it happen? I only have the 1 hive and no nuc at this point. I suppose I should get one for the future. Maybe I could have made a split when I saw the swarm cells?

At my last inspection before everything went haywire, there was an entire comb of capped drone cells. I moved it to the back to encourage them to fill with honey and not more drone after those hatched. Is this indicative of anything?
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maria05
New Bee


Joined: 09 Jul 2014
Posts: 5
Location: Berea, KY, USA

PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2014 2:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Also, do I need to worry about the survival of this hive with fewer bees? It seems slightly less than my original 3 lb package.

I have someone here who is willing to give me some capped brood, if needed.
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Dexter's shed
Scout Bee


Joined: 16 May 2014
Posts: 307
Location: Grays, Essex, UK

PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2014 5:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

maria05 wrote:


I will leave everything alone for awhile (a week?)

it can take upto 3-4 weeks for a virgin queen to mate

Is there anything I should have done differently


, there was an entire comb of capped drone cells. I moved it to the back to encourage them to fill with honey and not more drone


queens lay drones for a reason, ie to mate with all those queens, moving brood is not a good idea, do you know better than the bees???
if they want to store honey, they will build combs for it
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R Payne
Foraging Bee


Joined: 11 Apr 2011
Posts: 123
Location: USA, Kansas, Wichita

PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2014 10:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This sounds similar to what I went through in May. My hive swarmed (maybe a cast or two after the prime). I left the hive alone for a month from when I inspected right around the time they swarmed before opening it up again. (Did check the outside daily.) At that time I didn't see brood, I waited another couple of weeks (partially that long due to rain) before looking again at which time I found the queen and eggs/brood. All is well now, the bees are building more honey comb and they have been busy as, well, bees.

ron
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andy pearce
Silver Bee


Joined: 30 Aug 2009
Posts: 663
Location: UK, East Sussex, Brighton

PostPosted: Sun Jul 13, 2014 10:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just to add a few years ago we had issues of casts abandoning queens on numerous occasions. The casts would emerge from the hive and shortly later return leaving the new queen which we would pick up. She would flap off into the blue on her own. This was an unusual period for us, lots of queen cells, lots of piping and the abandonment of queens. We assumed that they assessed her and her flying ability and decided not to continue with the process. I have some photos somewhere and I will try to root them out when I get back from my latest quests, if they are any good and informative.

The other thing was the casts were quite grumpy, I got a good eyebrow sting from pulling my veil closer to my face to peer into a small cast to locate the queen. I intervened in the end as this seemed an endless route to an empty hive and the neighbours were getting tetchy.

We had just moved to Canola/OSR land.
A
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Barbara
Site Admin


Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1564
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Sun Jul 13, 2014 10:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Maria

As has been said, not a good idea to move brood to the back of the hive. Nurse bees on those combs lose contact with the queen's scent and think the hive has gone queenless. They may try to make an emergency queen from an egg or young worker larvae on the comb.... even if it is predominantly drones, there may still be some worker brood. Either way, it upsets the whole dynamics of the hive. Usually if they are making swarm cells, they put them on the outside of the brood nest with the drone brood, so it may be that you inadvertently moved a developing queen cell to the back of the hive, which again would confuse things and may explain why you had a cluster of bees hanging at the back of the hive.

Having at least a spare nuc is definitely a good idea. It can just be left on a site nearby in the hope of catching whatever swarms emerge and if not occupied, will be there if you need to make a split. I always find I never have enough spare hives, but a nuc/bait box is pretty much essential. It doesn't have to be anything special. I've got nuc boxes that have overwintered with just a piece of plastic on the top of the top bars and a brick to hold it down.

As regards the number of bees, I don't think it will be a problem. If you think that your package had a lot of work to do to build all that comb, your current colony can actually afford to have a holiday, because that work has been done by their predecessors and as they don't have any brood at the moment, life is quite easy for them and they will live longer as a result. If they still have some stores of honey/nectar I would not feed them, but if the cupboard is bare I would feed them a little if the nectar flow has dried up in your area. Do remember to reduce the entrance though.

Hope that helps.

Regards

Barbara
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