One of my strongest hives a few months ago, which I had attempted a walk-away split giving each split more than 10 medium frames of eggs and brood. The portion that wound up with the queen had absconded the next day, leaving behind 13 medium frames of predominantly very young larva, but nothing else. The queenless portion has first raised two virgins and lost them, perhaps on mating flights. I then tried to newspaper join them with a queenright nuc, but this did not succeed. Recently they raised a third virgin, but she has also vanished. Throughout I have been keeping them going with frames of eggs and emerging brood from other colonies. They have just started another round of queen cells from the most recent frame of eggs given them. I really don't wish to wait for this next virgin to fail too.
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1} move this hive about 100 feet away;
2} place an empty hive with a queen excluder at the entrance in case an errant virgin queen tries to return;
3} install a queenright nuc into this hive;
4} let the field bees from the original hive gradually return to the original location and join the nuc.
This is a strong, 5 deep frame nuc -- I plan to temporarily permit their frames to hang down in an open area within two medium supers with medium frames on both sides and on both levels. Once the colony expands onto the medium frames I will return the deeps to the nuc and manage the nuc so it again raises itself another open mated Cordovan Italian queen.
What's the weather been like? I've had similar experiences, which were almost certainly down to mating failure, since the weather was poor, and that strain had persistent problems with this. I got rid of them in the end.
You may have something there. We began having very strong afternoon--early evening storms almost every afternoon beginning soon after I began the split attempt with this colony. Two other colonies and two nucs have done better -- all were successful with their first virgins except one -- they lost their first virgin, but made it with their second try. This is the nuc I am using to bring a queen to the queenless.
This is also an attempt to introduce new blood. Originally this hive was one of my "open mated feral survivor" colonies. I have been attempting to get them queened with an open mated Cordovan Italian.
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I just finished the plan. Here is how it actually went:
1) I set up a bottom board about 100 feet away from the apiary;
2) I took the top super from the hive and placed it on the bottom board 100 feet away;
3) I then placed an empty super on top of this hive and moved the frames from the old super into it (the old hive's bottom board was screwed on and I didn't want to bother with releasing it);
4) I did not bother with a queen excluder;
5) I left the brood and queen cells with the old hive and inserted the nuc frames with laying queen (open mated Cordovan Italian) centered in the upper medium super;
6) I plan to move all brood containing frames to the new hive tomorrow after shaking any bees off in front of the old hive and destoying any live queen cells.
If there are bees remaining in the old hive after all brood is removed I will shake them out and then reclaim the equipment. I'm sure the bees will join whichever hive they are accepted in.
Well, this morning I began collecting frames of brood from the top super of the old hive (to give to the new colony at the old location) and when I got to the frame which I had most recently given them with eggs for emergency queen rearing, it had several, now sealed, emergency queen cells, but surprise, nearly every empty worker cell had an egg placed neatly in their bottoms? So I started looking more carefully and I began gently poking wherever small groups of bees were cluster-piled on the comb surface. Under one of the piles was a very nicely shaped Cordovan Italian queen (most-likely open mated as planned). She had her head tucked into an open cell and was gripping the comb while immobile, the bees were strategically piled around and over her so the fewest of them could completely conceal her presence. Curious that she was immediately adjacent to the queen cells on this frame, yet hadn't destroyed them.
I had just recreated the nuc, so they will be busy raising even another open mated Cordovan Italian queen.
Now I have two queenright hives when I thought I would only have one. The bees can still keep me guessing.