Calm queenless hives? Do I combine?
I inspected one of my Langstroth hives yesterday for the first time this year and discovered it was empty of brood. I reversed the deep brood boxes on it about 3 weeks ago, but was unable to do a full inspection at the time. I think I either killed or severely injured the queen at that time and a laying worker has been pulling off a good con job ever since. Prior to that, the hive seemed to be doing well. A couple days afterwards I noticed not as many bees coming and going compared to my other 3 hives, which are exploding with bees. Here's what I found during the inspection yesterday:
- No worker brood of any kind. No 1-3 day old eggs. No capped brood. Nothing.
- 12 or so open drone cells about to be capped.
- 10 or 20 cells of old capped drone brood.
- Plenty of honey along the sides.
- A whole lot of clean empty cells, some being filled with nectar and pollen.
- No queen that I could find.
- No supercedure cells. No swarm cells. No queen cups.
- Calm bees (a half decent population too).
Here's a post I wrote about it, including a short video:
I have 3 other hives that are exploding with bees. I plan to steal some 1 or 2 day old open brood from one of the those hives and install it in the broodless hive today. If the bees start building queen cells, then they are indeed queenless, correct?
I can't get a replacement queen around here for a couple weeks at the earliest. (I'm on the island on Newfoundland. We have a 2 or 3 month delayed season for everything.)
If it turns out the hive is queenless, I'd rather not wait for the bees to raise a new queen. That's too much lost time for our very short summers. I'd rather not have the hive sit around queenless for a couple weeks either while I wait for a replacement queen. So how does this sound as a plan of action?
- Combine (following the newspaper method) each of the deep brood boxes with two of our booming hives.
- Let the queens in the booming hives fill up the empty frames.
- Make splits from the booming hives in a two or three weeks when I can get some replacement queens.
I'm not too concerned at the moment. The bees have plenty of honey and pollen to keep them going for a while, they're still bringing in plenty of pollen and nectar, and they seem healthy and vigorous (though oddly calm). But whatever I do, I'll probably have to do it soon.
EDIT: The title should read HIVE, singular, not HIVES.
Re: Calm queenless hives? Do I combine?
Hopefully, someone more wise than I will chime in but I believe if there is a laying worker the bees perceive themselves as being queenright and will kill any foreign queen presented to them. Thus if you attempt to combine them with one of your "good hives" they may kill one of your real queens.
As is often suggested on here, if you can spare a frame of open brood every week for several weeks, the bees will likely make queen cells. By this point you should be able to introduce a purchased queen. You could remove any queen cells that they've made and rather than destroying them you can move them into a new nuc and make another hive... Just a suggestion.