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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Rice County, MN, USA
    Posts
    43

    Default Reviving a flagging colony

    All of my colonies made it through the winter and three of the 4 are thriving. The fourth is sluggish (slow to take in syrup and not many bees foraging compared to the other hives) and I plan a thorough inspection tomorrow. Assuming the queen is alive and laying what are my options for helping this colony out? I won't have fresh queens until May so requeening isn't an option until then. Would putting a few frames of brood from one of my other hives in help? If so, should they be frames of capped brood?

    Thanks in advance for your advice.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Blacksburg, VA
    Posts
    416

    Default Re: Reviving a flagging colony

    Some capped brood will boost the population. If the queen is failing, there are drones flying in your area, and the weather is mild (like a lot places right now), you could put a frame of eggs and young larva in and dispatch the queen. They should raise another. Use eggs and larva from your best other hive.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
    Posts
    3,836

    Default Re: Reviving a flagging colony

    Don't be dispatching a queen in Minneasota yet! Consider reducing the size of the hive by knocking them down into one box and if that is still way big, put some styrofoam follower boards in to reduce the amount of room they have to heat. If you have a frame of capped brood and bees, that is well over a pound more bees to boost that colony. That will help them take off if she is not a dud. Some are and any brood donated is wasted with compound interest. Don't give a cripple forever to get better. Mostly they don't ever set the world on fire. Numbers of colonies don't make a big crop. Strong colonies do.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Rice County, MN, USA
    Posts
    43

    Default Re: Reviving a flagging colony

    Reducing the size of the hive makes a lot of sense to me. I will take a look this afternoon and see what I can learn from my inspection of the hive. I hope that it will be clear to me whether to boost the colony with a frame of capped brood or to just let it die out.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Blacksburg, VA
    Posts
    416

    Default Re: Reviving a flagging colony

    Quote Originally Posted by bigwoodsbees View Post
    .... or to just let it die out.
    Or combine it with one of your others.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Cookeville, TN, USA
    Posts
    3,911

    Default Re: Reviving a flagging colony

    I've come to prefer to take frames of brood from weak colonies to strengthen strong ones in the spring. Because (in my area) the weak ones will never be able to make a honey crop anyway, and I think it even helps the weak hive because all of the foragers stay put and are better able to provide for the smaller colony. After the spring honey flow ends it might make more sense to strengthen weak colonies if they show promise of some kind.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Rice County, MN, USA
    Posts
    43

    Default Re: Reviving a flagging colony

    Well, I found a a full box of honey and a box with a little cluster (softball size) of nurse bees caring for brood. There were capped brood, larva and eggs. THe cluster is so small that I am not sure they will make it but I did add a frame of capped brood from my booming hive and will see if this helps. I have queens scheduled for delivery in May and am hoping to keep this one going until then so that I can requeen. Might not work but I will learn something along the way.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Pikeville North Carolina
    Posts
    397

    Default Re: Reviving a flagging colony

    Watch for pests or robbers in the supper, with that small number of bees there is not any protection. May want to reduce it or put into a nuc until they can build back up or until you can get a replacement queen. But something is amiss with a cluster that small. David's idea is sound as well. I have found sometimes I weaken a strong hive in an attempt to save a lost cause. I would probably reduce it and let them live or die on their own. I don't like taking from a strong hive.
    An empty wagon rattles the loudest.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Rice County, MN, USA
    Posts
    43

    Default Re: Reviving a flagging colony

    So when you take brood frames from a weak hive and put them in a strong hive where do you put them and do you first shake the bees that were on the frames back into their original hive?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Winhall, VT
    Posts
    1,066

    Default Re: Reviving a flagging colony

    I am no expert so take this for what it is worth. Your weak hive won't be able to keep a full frame of capped brood warm so you need to add nurse bees as well. They typically hang out on uncapped brood frames. Perhaps brushing a frame of nurse bees from your strong hive into the weaker one along with the frame of capped brood is a possible solution.

    I am not an expert beekeeper but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.
    Raising Vermont Bees one mistake at a time.
    USDA Zone 5A

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Cookeville, TN, USA
    Posts
    3,911

    Default Re: Reviving a flagging colony

    I almost always move the bees that are clinging to the frame along with it. Put it anywhere adjoining existing brood in the hive you are moving it to. Don't separate if from existing brood (like by putting it in the top honey super for example) or they might build queen cells on it.

    They won't fight, and the field bees will make their way back home. But make sure there aren't any signs of foul brood, and don't move the queen.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Rice County, MN, USA
    Posts
    43

    Default Re: Reviving a flagging colony

    Thanks David, that makes sense.

    I didn't see any signs of foulbrood but I did see some chilled larva, which makes sense given the size of the cluster. I will check the hive again in the next day or two and figure out what to do next.

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