I just got through with an examination of the two hives on our property.
The first, and strongest looked great! No visible sign of mites, lots of good brood, maybe a little light on honey for the winter, didn't find the queen. Replaced the bottom brood box that was falling apart and put a new bottom board on.
The second hive, which has been much less active than the other lately, is - well - a mess. The first thing that hit me when I cracked it open was a faint alcohol smell. Fermenting honey within the hive - that's a new one for me. Not surprising, there were only a handful of workers in the honey supers.
The next thing that I noticed when I started into the brood chamber was a very spotty pattern of capped drone cells *only*. I think I found one capped worker cell. There are a few larvae here and there but they all seem to be drones. Naturally, there are mites to be seen hanging around, with all those drones and fewer workers. I then noticed three queen cells at the bottom of the frame - all uncapped, from what I could see. Two looked like the royal jelly - or whatever it was - was old and discolored. I didn't see any larvae in them The third cell looked okay but the larvae inside didn't look alive. Just then I found a queen on the same frame. She looked small - about a third longer in the rear segment than the workers. I swear that the queen in this particular hive was a honkin' cow earlier this year. Since I didn't mark any of them this year, I don't know if she's the same one, or not. Do the queens in the northern areas lose weight with the arrival of winter?
Anyway, I'm guessing that I have a new queen who hasn't yet mated or started to lay. I put an entrance reducer in to help them better guard the place from the squadrons of yellow jackets that are buzzing around. This weekend, I was thinking of stealing a frame of sealed brood from the stronger hive and placing it in this one, and starting to feed them sugar syrup. I've heard that 2:1 syrup is what to feed them this time of year but, considering that we have a big gap in workers, do I want to maybe try 1:1 to start and get the queen laying?
Anything else that I might want to check for?
Combine the hive(if its even worth it) and save the comb for another day. Its late in the year for raising queens and straightening out messed up hives.
This was probably from a swarm situation you missed in August. You always run about a 20/25% chance that the hive will never be queenright again, after a swarm situation.
Save the money on sugar, money on destroyed comb, and time/labor, and just buy another queen next spring and do a split. Anything else at this time is probably a waste.
What happens if they kill the stunted queen (laying worker??) and replace with a new queen will they accept the new queen or will they end up with another laying worker? Are there normally more than one laying worker at a time?
Combine to make sure all the mites will survive and kill the second hive during the winter??
I would treat the hive first to make sure they have no mites anymore and than brush all bees (on a nice day where they can fly home) approx 100 meter away. Remove the hive so there is only one hive left and let they fly to this hive.
The laying workers have no orientation and canÂ’t come back. If you just combine the hives the laying workers probably kill the queen and the mites doing the rest.
I don't usually find fermenting honey in a hive. That seems odd.
It is getting to the time of year where there isn't a lot of time to sort things out or fix things. I don't know what you want to and or willing to do for the mites. If you want to treat, as Axtman says, this is probably the time before you combine. The shaking them out somewhere might be best, just because you don't really know the state of things, although I think your runty queen is probably the culprit and you could dispose of her and just do a combine. Or you could shake the weak hive out in front of the good one. That makes the weak one the interloper and the bees in the strong hive should get rid of any laying workers.
Sometimes a small queen does fine. Yes, sometimes a queen loses weight when she stops laying for the winter (or to swarm or whatever). But considering the state of the hive otherwise, I think the queen is the problem.
The fermented honey may be from SHB. They love to infest weak hives.
Thanks for all the input.
Definitely a queen that I saw...no doubt about that. I got a "runty" queen in the other hive earlier this year when I used supercedure cells with a split. Had several nerve-wracking weeks of watching nothing good happen and then replacing her with a purchased NWC queen. Like some of you said, it sounds like I got another one here.
I didn't actually see anything that looked like fermentation. I didn't pull each super frame out, as it was getting later in the day. But I certainly did get a few whiffs of alcohol when I popped the lid off.
I've never actually had an experience with SHB before (that I'm aware of). I'll have to take a closer look in the supers this weekend.
So, the consensus seems to be scrap this colony and combine with the other, taking care to treat them first.
Thanks again for your suggestions.
> ...faint alcohol smell...
If the honey frames did not smell the
same way, then you may have smelled
dead bees on the bottom board, and/or
dead brood in cells.
This late in the year, the colony is
doomed. There will not be enough bees
to cluster through the winter.
Better to NOT try and supplement the
population. Stealing from the rich
and giving to the poor won't help,
as the poor have simply run out of
time and options.
Next time, entrance activity should prompt
you to check when you see "something
unusual" like far fewer bees in/out of
one hive versus the other.
This alcohol smell thing really has me going. I smelled that in my hives last year and everyone at the beekeepers association said I had the problem. I could find no problem however, the extracted honey tasted great and sold like hotcakes and all the hives came through winter in grand fashion. This year, the same--my supers always smell a little like alcohol. I would think it was just me, but my husband said the same thing when I left some extracted but not cleaned supers in the garage overnight.
Maybe you're smelling a particular type of nectar with that as a part of the smell? Certainly at different times I've smelled different things in hive from "fresh baked bread" smell to "old tennis shoe" smell and they were all under normal conditions.