I did my first real inspection today. Of the two remaining hives that survived the winter, one appeared much weaker that the other. Upon inspection of the weak colony, I found the queen and a very small brood nest (about 2 inches in diameter) located in the bottom deep. Some capped and open brood present. The hive was quite strong last fall and still has good stores. Our weather over the past two weeks has been very nice (50-80 F). The second hive is very strong. They were over wintered in a single hive body. Last weekend I placed a second hive body on them and the queen is already up in it and laying. Brood is present in both hive bodies.
My question is should I requeen the weak hive? Is it possible that the difference between the hive is purely a result in different types of queens? My gut feeling is that the weak hive should be requeened, but I donÂ’t want to act prematurely. Both queens were new in August 2003.
>Upon inspection of the weak colony, I found the queen and a very small brood nest (about 2 inches in diameter) located in the bottom deep. Some capped and open brood present.
How big is the cluster of bees? It's difficult in early spring with cold nights for a small cluster to keep a large brood nest warm. It may be this is the most they can manage.
>The hive was quite strong last fall and still has good stores.
Honey or honey and pollen? For brood rearing they will need the pollen.
>My question is should I requeen the weak hive? Is it possible that the difference between the hive is purely a result in different types of queens? My gut feeling is that the weak hive should be requeened, but I donÂ’t want to act prematurely. Both queens were new in August 2003.
Maybe, for a variety possible reasons the cluster got smaller in the one hive and maybe they are slow to build up in the spring. How short is your main honey flow? When would you expect it? Even if the bees are of the type that they just are waiting to build up, it may not be the type of bee you want if you have an early, short, main flow. If that's true I'd try to get queens that do well in your climate with your honey flow.
Thanks Michael for the fast response!
ItÂ’s true that we've had some cold nights as recently as 1.5 weeks ago. The cluster of bees is not that big, perhaps two good frames maybe three.
There's plenty of honey and pollen present plus the bees are actively bringing in large loads of pollen.
Our spring flow starts around April 1st and runs through June 1st. In my particular area, we have many cotton fields that give me a late summer flow too.
Both queens are "supposedly" Cordovan, but the queen in the strong hive does not "look" Cordovan nor do her offspring. The queen in the weak hive has the classic Cordovan look (beautiful golden color).
If I choose to keep the weak queen, should I take steps to equalize the two hives?
I really don't want to miss the spring flow with this weak hive, but I realize that time is running out.
I think you will already miss the flow. You could wait and see how they do after a honey flow, or you can just order a queen now. One way to equalize hives is to take some emerging brood from the strong one and give it to the weak one. When they emerge they will belong to the weak hive now and won't fly back home, but the weak hive doesn't have to raise all that brood. you can also shake off some brood frames (careful not to shake the queen off) into the weak hive. Some will stay, some will fly home. I probably wouldn't give the weak one a lot of open brood right now, since they don't seem to think they want it or they would have some already.
>I think you will already miss the flow.
That's a real bummer!!
Both hives have two hive bodies, the queen in the strong hive is laying in the upper box and has the lower box full of brood honey and pollen. The queen in the weak hive is in the lower box.
What do you think would happen if I took the lower box from the strong hive and placed under the weak hive and took the upper box from the weak hive and placed it over the strong hive? Of course I would need to make sure I know where the queens are before attempting this. I guess the newspaper trick would be necessary too.
Is this too risky? Would too many bees return back to the strong hive, leaving the weak hive with too much brood?
>Is this too risky? Would too many bees return back to the strong hive, leaving the weak hive with too much brood?
Yes, and that's why I'd just take some emerging brood and maybe shake off some nurse bees. Don't want to give them a lot of brood to care for and stress them out. You want to give them a boost of workers to help with the work.
As for the honey flow, the strong hive should do well. Now would be the time to do stimulation feeding if you choose to. 1:1 sugar syrup is the norm for that.
The weak hive, if you ordered a queen right now and got it here right away, I still don't know if it's the workers who are limiting the size of the brood nest or the queen. Usually, it seems to be up to the workers. The queen seems happy to lay most of the time. It will take six weeks for the bees from the new queen to reach the stage where they are likely to be foragers. Do you have six weeks? And that's just the first batch of offspring from the new queen which won't be a lot because there won't be that many nurse bees to care for them.
How about swapping a few frames and swapping the hive locations also?
Thanks again Michael.
I think you're right that its the number of workers that is limiting the queen. I'll take your suggestion and give the weak hive some emerging brood and some nurse bees. Perhaps this will give them the boost they need.
Swapping the hive locations sounds interesting too.
Thanks for all the input.
Bjorn is right, a simple thing is just swap locations and all the field bees will come back to the weak one.
I've got Buckfast and Italian hives that have had herds of k-wing (trachea infested) bees coming out of them for the past several weeks. These hives are very weak, but are managing to bring in some pollen. I don't know if they're going to make it. On the other hand, I've got russian and NWC hives that are just booming... I've never seen a k-wing bee from those hives. Check to see if you have bees that can't fly around your hive- then you know that they're trachea infested, and that it's the race of bee, not the queen that's the problem.
Buckfasts are known for resiting Tracheal mites. It's probably their biggest claim to fame besides frugal use of winter stores and quick build up in the spring. Odd that you'd have problems with them.
IMO you should focus on further strenghening your strong hive to optimize your honey harvest. Switching hive locations will just weaken your strong hive by dividing the foraging force. Its probably ok to take a few eggs/larvae and a few nurse bees from the strong hive, but not the emerging brood that will become foragers during the honey flow. You could also attempt to go to a two-queen system and effectively combine the working force. Otherwise, IMO you should wait until after the flow to re-inforce the weak hive.
I've not seen any k-wing and the bees that are there seem to be in good shape, but it is still somewhat of a mystery as to why they have gotten so weak.
As db_land points out, its a bit of a gamble weakening the strong hive to strengthen the weak one. Can anyone else give his or her opinion as the best course of action? My goal is to maximize my honey harvest.
The foragers that are working now, will not last long into your main flow, from the beginning April till into June, 4 to 6 weeks is about the life span during the active season. So, switching hive locations, will not adversely affect your honey crop. But, it will give the weaker hive a leg up.
Second, if your queen that is laying well, has been working two brood chambers, a frame or even two, should also not slow them down if you replace them with drawn comb. She will get right on to it. I would take a frame of almost all capped brood and covering bees, and then a frame of mixed eggs, larva, and capped brood and bees.
You may even help yourself by opening the strong hive up a bit, and giving her more room to lay, it sounds like she may be crowded and running out of room.
Just make sure that both hives have enough pollen, honey stores, and even nectar coming in. You may want to try and stimulate the weaker hive.
I read your question and some of the responses. The commercial guy I work with would do 2 things. Add brood. Feed them as close to the cluster as you can. Large hardware stores sell pint paint cans that can be inverted over brood (punch holes in the lid) bringing feed right to the hive. I would not give up on the flow! If you can add brood or get another queen, my flow is a ways away, especially for later in "the season".