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  1. #1

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    My question is: are our bees without a queen?

    My fiance and I started a hive May 2nd from a package with an unmarked queen and the Mann Lake starter kit and they've done well in spite of the cold, rainy summer we've had. The current arrangement of the hive, from the bottom to the the top is:
    1) deep hive body, all used for brood
    2) deep hive body, completly full of capped
    honey (we think, more on that later)
    3) medium super, fully stored with capped
    honey which we are leaving for them
    4) medium super, only about half drawn into
    comb with some capped honey but not much

    We are using a screened bottom board and a QE between #3 and #4.

    We were inspectiong every other week, as recommended for beginners and they were doing great. We found our queen several times early in the summer before the hive became so strong and bought a queen marking kit because we thought it would be fun thing to try and helpful if she were marked. Wouldn't you know it, we've never found the queen since the marking kit arrived. We didn't worry though, because every inspection revealed plenty of eggs and larvae, all the evidence we needed that our queen was alive and keeping quite busy. Since adding the QE and top medium we haven't been doing our usual full inspections because they seemed to be doing so well and we thought it best to just let them do their business undisturbed for awhile. We have been taking many quick peeks to check the progress of the top medium super to make sure they weren't running out of room (7 of 10 rule). We also spend quite a bit of time just hanging out around the hive and watching, listening, smelling, observing, learning.

    Sorry, I know this is getting long-winded. I'm getting to my question.

    We did a full inspection yesterday. Before we even lit the smoker we discussed what needed to be done and formulated a plan. We decided to spend some time checking the frames in the top medium then doing only a quick check of the medium and deep that are full of honey and then doing a thorough inspection of the bottom deep which is brood. We were ready to mark the queen, if we were lucky enough to find her. We thought it would be best to be quick with boxes #2 and #3 because they've been solid full of capped honey for quite awhile so we didn't think there was enough benefit to justify all the additional time we would have to spend inspecting an additional 20 frames. Everything went according to plan until we got to the brood box. We pulled a frame or two from #2 and #3 from the side of the five they always are slow to fill and they were solid honey. It was great to see the stores so full. There were TONS of bees; we were very pleased to see how strong the hive had become (MB - I know you use mediums only, as will I from now on. The deep that's full felt like it weighed a ton!) The brood box was mostly empty. There was some capped larva and a little uncapped larva but nothing like we've been used to seeing. The ratio of capped to uncapped was probably about 3:1 or maybe 4:1. We didn't find the queen but we're used to that. What is most troubling, though, is that we didn't see any eggs. I know that brood production slows in the fall and we've observed that the afternoon orientation flights have become smaller and smaller over the past few weeks. Still, I'm a little worried about our failure to find eggs. Maybe there is a little brood mixed in #2 and we didn't see it because we mostly skipped past it. Maybe we don't have a queen. I can't believe that she left with a swarm but maybe she just died. Maybe we're observing the perfectly normal reduction in brood production that occurs in the fall and we're worrying about nothing.

    Are we queenless? Do we requeen? Do we check back in a week or two to see what happening? It's probably time to put the hivetop feeder back on for fall feeding (2:1) - I thought that was mostly for stores but will it also stimulate brood production? What do you think we should do?

    By the way - I know there is someone out there that is thinking that we are leaving too much honey for them but that's just what we've decided to do. We'll take plenty next year.


    Thanks in advance for any help - this site has been TREMENDOUSLY helpful this summer.

    Paul


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,742

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    >(MB - I know you use mediums only, as will I from now on. The deep that's full felt like it weighed a ton!)

    Probably closer to 100# than a ton but then it's stuck to the box below so it might weigh 150# until it comes loose.

    >What is most troubling, though, is that we didn't see any eggs.

    She could be laying anywhere in the bottom three boxes, and, although unlikely, she could even be laying in the top box if she squeezed through the excluder. Did you check the second brood box?

    >Maybe there is a little brood mixed in #2 and we didn't see it because we mostly skipped past it.

    That's very possible.

    >Maybe we don't have a queen. I can't believe that she left with a swarm but maybe she just died.

    They do die occasionaly, but then I'd expect to find queen cels. Brood rearing drops off, but the bees always seem to keep a few eggs around for emergencies. It is possible the bees decided to supercede and there is a virgin queen somewhere or a capped queen cell somewhere.

    >Maybe we're observing the perfectly normal reduction in brood production that occurs in the fall and we're worrying about nothing.

    Maybe. You are in Minnesota. How cool are the nights now? Mine are still raising brood, but not at the rate they were in the spring.

    >Are we queenless?

    I'd put a frame of eggs in if you can and find out. If you don't have that, I'd search the hive for the queen and/or eggs.

    >Do we requeen?

    If there is a queen it will be a waste. If there is a supercedure going on, it will be a waste.

    >Do we check back in a week or two to see what happening?

    Always a good idea when you're not sure what's happening.

    >It's probably time to put the hivetop feeder back on for fall feeding (2:1) - I thought that was mostly for stores but will it also stimulate brood production?

    It may stimulate some brood rearing, but not like 1:1 does. Maybe you should do a little 1:1. They have plenty of stores, some young bees won't hurt going into winter and you may be more likely to find eggs.

    >What do you think we should do?

    What do you have for resources? Do you have another hive? Can you get a frame with some eggs to put in the brood nest? If so, I'd put one in and see if they start a queen. I'd also check out brood box #2. Also, sometimes when you smoke them heavily the queen runs to some other part of the hive, which may be why you don't see her.

    >By the way - I know there is someone out there that is thinking that we are leaving too much honey for them but that's just what we've decided to do. We'll take plenty next year.

    Since it's a strong hive, the only advantage I see to pulling the top medium off (besides more honey for you) is the queen may be laying there come spring. But if you plan to convert to mediums, that might be exactly what you want.

  3. #3

    Post

    MB -

    Thanks again.

    We plan to expand next year but for now do not have another hive so trading frames with another hive or adding frames with eggs isn't an option.

    Correct me if I'm wrong but it sounds like we should begin the fall feeding but start out with a little 1:1. I think we'll start the feed and wait about a week and have another look and this time we'll inspect everything. We'll look hard for the queen and for any eggs. I guess we'll try to use as little smoke as we can. Maybe we'll wear gloves and really try to skimp on the smoke. Does that sound like a good plan?

    What do we do with the top medium, the one above the QE? Only about 3 or 4 frames have been drawn and there is only a little capped honey. Mostly it is bare foundation, they just ran out of steam before thay got much done up there. Should we remove it and the QE when we put on the hive-top feeder? If we remove it what do we do with it? Should we put the frames near the entrance so they can clean out all that uncured honey or will that spark a huge robbing frenzy? We have noticed an increased number of little scuffles occurring at the entrance, nothing like a full robbing assult that would warrant the entrance reducer and all that but there are definitely a few thieves lurking about.

    In another week if we still can't find our queen or any eggs what do we do?

    Thanks again - I reeeeeeeeally appreciate the help.

    Paul

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,742

    Post

    >Correct me if I'm wrong but it sounds like we should begin the fall feeding but start out with a little 1:1.

    I think that's a good plan under the circumstances. That way maybe you can find some eggs.

    >I guess we'll try to use as little smoke as we can. Maybe we'll wear gloves and really try to skimp on the smoke. Does that sound like a good plan?

    That's one plan. The one I would use actually. By looking where you see the most and the calmest bees first, you may find her pretty quickly. But if that plan fails, another possibility is to smoke it heavily from the top on each box as you move down, without searching the boxes and then search the bottom one. The queen generally runs more quickly from smoke than the bees and this will usually force her to the bottom box.

    >What do we do with the top medium, the one above the QE? Only about 3 or 4 frames have been drawn and there is only a little capped honey. Mostly it is bare foundation, they just ran out of steam before thay got much done up there. Should we remove it and the QE when we put on the hive-top feeder?

    I hate to risk them running out of room. How full is the brood chamber? They can't raise bees if they clog it with stores. Is there a possibility of more of a fall flow there?

    >If we remove it what do we do with it?

    You can extract it and feed it back. You can uncap it and leave it out to be robbed out. You can uncap it and put it on top of the inner cover to get them to move the stores down.

    >Should we put the frames near the entrance so they can clean out all that uncured honey or will that spark a huge robbing frenzy?

    Are there other bees around?

    >We have noticed an increased number of little scuffles occurring at the entrance, nothing like a full robbing assult that would warrant the entrance reducer and all that but there are definitely a few thieves lurking about.

    Ah... then I'd avoid putting them in the open. Try putting them over the inner cover.

    >In another week if we still can't find our queen or any eggs what do we do?

    If you really work at it, don't you think you can find her? Or some eggs? My guess is she's there somewhere. But if not, you can order a queen and try to introduce it. If the old queen's still there they will reject the new queen, if not they will probably accept the new queen.


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