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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
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    Tulsa, OK
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    Default weak hive combine/frame storage

    This a follow up about my weak(est) hive.

    I have one location with two hives, neither one doing too hot, one doing lousy. It does not have enough stores to get through winter. I'm feeding, but its probably hopeless.

    On that hive, I have not been able to find the queen since May. Part of the problem is that I'm not very good at spotting unmarked queens. (Oddly enough, my four year old son is pretty good at it until his attention span runs dry, but he has not found the queen on this one either.) I've seen eggs and brood, just never the queen. The queen that I put in there in May (which I never again saw) was a marked Russian queen. I think the may have superseded her at some point, but I'm not sure.

    Two weeks ago, I found what looked like capped queen cells (looked like supersedure cells), except they were smaller than usual. Last weekend, they had torn all of those down. I could not find the queen. Also, no brood. Really, not that many bees either. No drone cells. Just nothing going on at all.

    I want to combine this hive with the other one. However, I do not want to put a queen from this hive into my other hive and get the other queen killed by accident. However, I can't find a queen in this stupid hive.

    So here's my questions:

    1. Could it be that this hive has just gone queenless? At this time of year, if a hive goes queenless do they just not lay at all? (That's sort of what it looks like to me.)

    2. Any tips for finding the queen if you think she's there?

    Also, I will have some empty brood frames left after I do a combine. I will use some Bt for wax moths. However, I was wondering whether hive beetles will damage brood comb that is stored. If so, what do you do about that?

    Thanks,

    Neil

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
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    Sacramento,California,USA
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    3,872

    Default

    Take a frame of open brood from one of your other hives, gently shake it to get the older bees off it, and stick it in the hive you can not find the queen in. Leave it for 5 minutes, then open it back up and pull that open brood frame out and inspect it. If that hive has a queen, she'll be on that frame, checking out the new brood and spreading her fermone around on it. If you don't see her on it, then assume it's queenless and just pick it up and put on top of the hive that you removed the broodframe from as a join. Since it's queenless they should join fine with no newspaper or anything. Best of Luck
    “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” – John Muir

  3. #3
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    Jun 2008
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    Sacramento,California,USA
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    Default

    As far as storing frames...
    Wax moths aren't after the wax, they are after the protien left behind in brood combs from the pupae casings and from pollen. If you have broodframes and frames that have had pollen stored, then waxmoths will get them. Store them where they get 40 degrees or where it's very cold at night and it should help to deter them. BT spray and wrap in plastic garbage bags with some paramoth crystals should do the trick also. Wax moths love it warm and dark, so cold and light is the way to store unless treated
    “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” – John Muir

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    College Station, Texas
    Posts
    6,973

    Default

    neilv writes:
    1. Could it be that this hive has just gone queenless? At this time of year, if a hive goes queenless do they just not lay at all? (That's sort of what it looks like to me.)

    2. Any tips for finding the queen if you think she's there?


    tecumseh:
    queenless hives don't ever lay... period. however...some 'races of bee' will quit 'brooding up' when the nectar quite coming in or the air temperture gets quite cold. italians 'tend' to brood up constantly, but the northern european 'races' will typically totally halt brood rearing.

    a queen excluder is an excellent way to find a queen. there is of course the standard method of shaking the hive thru a box with an excluder attached to the bottom. another possibility is: a lot of time you can simply plop an excluder on the top of a hive, then smoke the hives entry heavily (smoke 'em till they choke) wait a minutes or so and then by lifting the excluder gently (the idea here is not to dislodge any bees) and discover the queen has run as far from the smoke as she can get... which is the excluder. the more runny the queen the better this last option works.

    suggestion: you have two hives at this one location correct? reduce the hive in question to the smallest dimension possible (it may be a good idea to consolidate the more active hive also if you think the stack may get a bit too high???). remove the lid off of the more active hive. place on one sheet of newspaper and a queen excluder above this.... with your hive tool slice 3 or 4 slits thru the paper. then stack the weaker hive on top of this excluder... be certain to provide an entrance at the top of the stack (I personally like to situate the entraces on different sides of the stack... this aids in seperation a bit later if the manipulation works). this combine + excluder will typically do two things.... first combining will average out the populations in the two boxes. secondly if there is a queen in the second hive then (a bit of feed should speed this along) most times she will begin laying up again and fairly quickly (for my itialians this typically happens within one week.. some northern races of bees I suspect would take a bit longer). I expect (don't absolutely know) that the heat plus the redistribution of queen pheromone from the bottom box kicks the weaker unit into brood rearing. If you do have a queen in both boxes then a bit later (lets say two weeks from first manipulation for my italian) you can sit the top box off on it's own bottom board... typically at this time I would somewhat level resources (brood but most especially feed) between the two boxes. you could of course overwinter the colonies in the original 'stacked mode' with the addition of a double screen or cloak (set in the place where the paper and queen excluder was first situated) board once you were certain the two unit had a laying queen.

    good luck....

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
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    Tulsa, OK
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    Default

    Tecuseh says: "queenless hives don't ever lay... period."

    I meant there are no drone layers. If a hive goes queenless and its late in the year, do laying workers not develop?

    Also, that hive manipulation idea is a good idea, and I may give that a go. I'm going to give a close look and decide what to do.

    Thanks,

    Neil

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
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    College Station, Texas
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    Default

    neilv writes:
    I meant there are no drone layers. If a hive goes queenless and its late in the year, do laying workers not develop?


    tecumseh:
    yes they do (but of course not always). the evidence for drone layers (which I think??? you already know) is there will be multiple eggs in a cell. another thing to look for 'hopelessly queenless' condition is... in the center of whatever cluster exist there is evidence of workers pulling queen cell (not unusually 1, 2 or 3 together and towards the top of the frame) on cells with nothing there except (and oftentimes) pollen. I read somewhere (i think 'bioliogy of the honey bee'???) that workers had been know to move eggs... so I suspect that are preparing cells for essential resources (a good viable worker egg) that don't exist.

    I don't know what kind (race) of bees you have... but as I suggested earlier some races will totally terminate brood rearing. depending on situation, this may or may not be good in the eyes of the beekeeper.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
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    Default Update

    I got into the weaker hive this last weekend with the four year old. In about 45 seconds, he spotted the queen. I asked him how he did that, and he said I should "look for the longest one." So that's how you do it, I guess. In my defense, the queen was the runniest bee I've ever seen. She was running laps over both sides of the frame she was on, and she was hard to keep up with even after we found her the first time.

    The queen was not marked, so she is either the initial queen I put in or a daughter. She is dark and looks like a Russian queen (which is what I put in earlier in the year).

    This hive previously had a mostly open brood box, no brood and a shallow super of honey. The bees had moved all -- and I mean all -- of the honey from the super into the brood area. The hive was not taking much syrup, but they may have been busy moving the honey down.

    I have decided to keep feeding 2:1 syrup, put some granulated sugar on the top bars and see what happens. If they make it and don't show improvement early, I'll requeen. If not, then good riddance, I suppose. The weird thing about this queen is that she laid a good brood pattern when she laid. However, the hive just never seemed to take off.

    Anybody see anything terribly wrong with that plan?

    The other somewhat weak hive is taking 2:1 like there's no tomorrow, and I think it will do okay.

    Thanks,

    Ndvan

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
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    Sacramento,California,USA
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    Default

    You're plan sounds good.
    I'm coming to the conclusion that it's a waste of time, for me, to keep trying to nurse along weak hives that don't seem to take off on their own. I've been changing my management to instead of nursing along after weaker hives, I pinch the queen and either do a shake-out (in which case the healthy bees will join up with my other hives) or I pinch the queen and do a join with a stronger hive. I can always raise a queen or three and do a split or 4 later on down the road. Strong populous hives do so much better, and provide for good splits on down the road in time.
    “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” – John Muir

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Cambria County, PA US
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    Default

    Neil - interesting to hear your experience with Russians. They are so much different to deal with than the Italians.

    There was another thread talking about Russians, so I placed a link there pointing over here to your thread. I'd be interested in hearing after the fact what you decide to do and how it goes.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
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    Nevada County, CA
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    1,083

    Default

    This time of year a hive will often tollerate two queens. When I have two weak hives, especially if I suspect I have a very young queen who may not have been able to mate adequately, I usually combine them with a super full of honey between. If one queen is a loser the bees will eventually get rid of her and the remaining bees will combine. If both queens are laying then you will have more young bees to winter over and the two clusters will share some of each others heat when it gets cold. In the end you will have only one queen, but I trust the bees to know which one is best. It's better to have one strong hive going into winter than two weak ones.
    doug

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