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  1. #1
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    Default Nucs? Trouble with my new hive?

    Hi all...I've posted a couple of times in the Beekeeping 101 forum but I have some TBH-specific questions, and I really hope to get some advice or help! We installed a 3# package of bees in our new TBH at the end of April. Things seemed to be going okay...we were feeding them and trying to leave them alone, and we were all excited when we started to see comb appear.

    However, it's now over a month later and the bees have produced almost no comb. I mean, they have maybe five combs that aren't even the full width of the TBH. They're bringing in pollen and the hive seems active, but the number of bees seems to be dwindling and I don't know why. I haven't seen any signs of parasites or disease. I don't know how to tell if the queen is alive. I've seen some capped cells but I haven't seen the center region of the inner combs so I don't know if it's primarily worker or drone. I'm about to go take out a comb and have a look, but I'm worried about stressing them out if they're already under stress.

    Any idea of what could be wrong? I wish I could put a nuc in there with some brood to give them a kickstart, but I've looked everywhere for TBH nuc frames and I can't find anyone who carries it! Do you think the queen is dead? Should I try putting in a new queen cage and see what happens?

    Any help would be much appreciated!

  2. #2

    Default Re: Nucs? Trouble with my new hive?

    Have you not checked in on them since you hived the package? It's hard to believe they would stick around of they had lost their queen and at least aren't trying to raise another one.
    It sounds like you really need to open it up and see what you have inside. Just be ready for some irritable bees if they are queenless. Is the comb still white, or is it turning yellow. I've noticed mine turn noticeably yellow after just one round of brood hatched out. Maybe you just have a weak queen. If she is not laying a lot, then perhaps the little bit of comb you have is enough to support them. But it won't be enough to make them successful. I'd definitely look for the queen. If she is there, I'd consider requeening, as it does not sound like she is very strong. If the hive numbers are too low already you may want to combine them to make a stronger hive and then requeen the new hive. I guess that assumes you have more than one hive. If you don't have any more hives to combine with, you may just have to get a new queen and cross your fingers....
    Note my signature, I have been vey lucky with my first hive so I tend to take things for granted.
    Good luck!

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Nucs? Trouble with my new hive?

    Hi Tom! Thanks for the reply!

    I have checked on them before, but mostly through the observation window. I wasn't sure if I should wait for them to get some good comb established before trying to pull any out. I have opened it up and taken out some combs now, and I think I spotted the queen (I took my camera and photographed each comb, front and back, so I could study them later). I'm going to link to the picture, and maybe you can let me know if you think I'm right?

    Here's what else I've spotted: capped honey at the top of the combs, larvae in the cells, some capped worker cells and some capped drone cells. I checked last week and it was just a quick peek, and I was kind of concerned because the hive numbers seemed really low. Then I looked in through the window the other day and was astonished at how many bees seemed to be there. Today when I opened it, the comb was no longer pure white, so I'm guessing maybe they hatched out a brood?

    Maybe they just had a hard time when they first got hived, and their numbers dropped, and so they've only built as much comb as they could handle? Might that explain the slow progress?

    Queen bee?

    I put a green dot on her back digitally so you can see which one I mean. She looks totally different than all the other bees! (Plus you can see a little larva right under her leg! Aw!

    Here's the link to my whole bee album: Bee album Sorry some of the pics are a little blurry...

    Thanks again for your reply and your help!

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Nucs? Trouble with my new hive?

    that does NOT look like a queen to me, the abdomen is not long enough, at least from the picture you have shown us. Nonetheless, if you have larvae, you have a queen!

  5. #5

    Default Re: Nucs? Trouble with my new hive?

    Quote Originally Posted by llgoddj View Post
    that does NOT look like a queen to me, the abdomen is not long enough, at least from the picture you have shown us. Nonetheless, if you have larvae, you have a queen!
    Like I said, hard to tell from that perspective. But llgoddj drives home the point. You don't need to worry as much about finding the queen, as long as you see signs that she is still in the hive. As long as you see eggs in the cells (a single egg per cell that is) then you know that you at least had a queen as late as three days prior. If you stop noting eggs altogether then you have reason to be concerned.
    After 20 months I'm over a 20 hives and growing. See my videos! http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8fVrmUsyYlRuASdX6UQk1g

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Nucs? Trouble with my new hive?

    What you have marked is a drone and the drone brood is from a laying worker.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Nucs? Trouble with my new hive?

    That does appear to be your queen, although the perspective is hard to tell for sure. When you see the queen from the top (looking down on her as a bird would) her abdomen is distinctively longer. I like the digital dot! I was concerned at first because it is the wrong color. This year is yellow. I was going to inquire if it was digital since it looked so crisp. One trick to looking for you queen, is to look for bees in a rosette pattern. The worker bees will all be facing the queen. You don't always see this, but if you do, it is again, a very easy way to find her. These are all things that you will gain an eye for over time. I still struggle to find my queen, and she has a bright yellow dot on her back!

    I should have stated the slump in bee numbers in my first response. This is very normal, and nothing to worry about. You have to understand that in the time that it takes the first brood to hatch out, a lot of bees will die of old age. So you will see a slump, and then a boom. The yellowed comb is a sign that bees have hatched out. You will note a consistent darkening of the comb over time. Each time a larva pupates, it spins a very thin cocoon inside the cell. Over time these will build up, until such a time where the comb is dark brown to black. It is good practice to periodically remove and dispose of this older comb. If nothing else it just serves as a house cleaning, as the old comb may harbor disease. It would be like burning lice infected clothing (gross analogy, but I think effective).

    The capped honey at the top of each bar is perfectly normal. Ideally the bees will fill the top of the comb in an arch shape with stores. Just below the honey will be a thin band of pollen, and the rest will be brood. Again, this is ideal. I note the honey to be pretty regular in my hive, but the pollen seems to get tossed around wherever it will fit. You want to at least look for a good tight brood pattern on the comb. If you notice spotty brood, like a shotgun pattern, then you have issues. Possibly just a disorganized queen, but it can be indicative of bigger problems looming. It's perfectly normal to see some drone comb (notable by it's high dome capping) but mostly what you should see is the less domed worker brood. The bees will naturally raise as few drones as possible. But if your hive is very strong, and carries good genetics, you may notice more drones. That's good in that you are helping the local bee populations by mating good drones with other queens. However, if you notice excessive drone comb, then you have either an unfertilized queen, or laying workers (infertile eggs). Laying workers are a very serious and difficult to combat problem. The bright side is, your queen can't become unfertilized. Unless she lives so long that she literally runs out of sperm from her initial mating flight. I don't know if queens will make a new mating flight, but I don't believe so. In a feral hive, as a queen becomes weak and slows down her laying ability, the hive will supersede here and raise a new young vibrant queen. Most commercial beekeepers will systematically re-queen their hives once a year (I believe in the fall) to prevent any issues of the queen getting old and lazy on them.

    As for drone brood, I have noticed my queen seems to put it out in batches, which I see to be a decision that she makes, and I see it as a smart, orderly queen. At first I saw very little drone brood, and then all of sudden there was a patch of drone brood about 2" in diameter smack in the middle of one comb. I thought about cutting it out for IPM, but I have a varroa resistant queen and have not seen enough signs (any for that matter) of varroa to see the need. Obviously the queen was proud enough of her hive that she felt comfortable putting out some drones instead of workers. Once all those drones hatched out, that same comb was re-laid with worker brood. To me that was an astonishing sign of what bees will do when given the natural option to do what they choose is best.

    In other news, I harvested one bar of comb this past weekend, 3.25 lbs, and sold out in my first day back at work! People love the stuff. And everyone has questions, which is great since I love to talk about the girls!
    After 20 months I'm over a 20 hives and growing. See my videos! http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8fVrmUsyYlRuASdX6UQk1g

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Nucs? Trouble with my new hive?

    I had two hives going up until two weeks ago. I was worried about the one hive. It had a queen but no evidence that she laid a single egg and I didn't know if she had died or something. At inspection time I almost pulled a bar of brood from the good hive to put in but decided to give it a week. They didn't have a week, next inspection there was a sad huddle (about fist sized) of bees that were all that were left. Like Bruce described they had given up. Whatever you decide, don't wait or hesitate, they might not have the time.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Nucs? Trouble with my new hive?

    I really appreciate all your thoughts and insights. It's been so helpful! Okay, so likely that's a drone. I still thought her abdomen was way too pointed for a drone, but it's hard to see in that picture. Our queen was a Buckfast, and I still think the bee in the picture looked a lot like this (though, granted, a little hard to see at the weird angle as I was trying to take a picture around my helper's arm): Buckfast Queen. But it's kind of pointless to go back and forth about it over just one picture...really...I'll see if I can get a better shot tomorrow.

    Edit -- yes, I only have one hive. I've looked everywhere for a source of brood comb but no luck. I've also heard that adding brood comb to a small hive could overtax the workers, if there aren't enough nurse bees to look after them. I'm going to go back in tomorrow and check again, and see what's changed.

    Also, does anyone have any comment on my idea of what happened? I.e., I checked the hive like two or three days after the worker brood hatched (accounting for the huge increase in numbers in the hive over the last couple days prior to the check), but before the drones hatched? I read that workers take 21 days to hatch while drones take 24. The next batch of worker brood wouldn't be capped over yet, would it?

    Thanks again...I'll let you know what I find when I look tomorrow.
    Last edited by Lucretia; 06-15-2012 at 01:11 PM. Reason: Forgot to add something

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Nucs? Trouble with my new hive?

    Hi Lucretia, I'm new to beekeeping this year too. I read the same thing, workers 21 days, drones 24 but, other than a lul right when the first workers were hatching and a lot of the original package bees had reached their lifespan, my queen is laying everyday. There are eggs, larva, and capped brood in all stages in the broodnest, so new bees are hatching all the time. Maybe your hive is having a bit of a lul due to the same reason mine did? There were too few nurse bees to cover any more brood so she seemed to stop laying for a few days but then started up again when the hatchlings were ready to start working. I'm now starting to see orientation flights already. My hive got started May 16th.

    By the way, my hive that didn't make it had a Buckfast queen that for whatever reason didn't lay. The package she got stared with was more than half dead on arrival and had to be replaced so it may have played a role.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Nucs? Trouble with my new hive?

    Lucretia,
    What are the dimensions of your hive? What I mean is, how long are the bars, and how deep is your hive on
    the inside?(from the bottom of the top bar to the bottom of your hive)

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Nucs? Trouble with my new hive?

    Steven, I got the Backyard Hive original TBH, so 36" x 14.5" x 9". I only have the one hive, but I'm really thinking I need to start a second one. If I'd had another one, I might have had some brood to stick in the trouble hive. As it is, I don't know any TBH beeks in my area.

    I've checked my hive again every couple of days since I last posted. There's definitely something wrong, but I'm not convinced I've got a laying worker. I'm almost more inclined to believe I've got a drone-laying queen. I took some more pictures today. There is brood in every stage of development, but most of the capped cells I've seen are drone. I think there might be a few worker cells, but I'm not sure??? Anyway, the reason I think it's a queen and not a LW is that, as you can clearly see from this picture, in all the cells I saw with eggs, there was only one egg in each, and they seemed to be all planted at the very back of the cell, not on the sides. Also the very smallest larva are developing at the very back of the cells. Could that pattern (one egg per cell at back of cell) still come from a LW, or do you think maybe they raised a new queen and she's started laying properly?

    Well, I ordered a new queen anyway, because I was desperate and didn't know what else to do. She'll be arriving tomorrow.

    Since I seem to have zero luck actually identifying the queen (or, if this actually is a LWH), can anyone recommend the best way to introduce the new queen? If there's a drone-laying queen (or even a new queen), will the bees take care of the old one for me? Or do I have to try to track her down? And if it's a LW, is it pretty much a lost cause? I really don't want to give up on these guys...

  13. #13

    Default Re: Nucs? Trouble with my new hive?

    I'll propose this, just my own thoughts on what might possibly work. Feel free to correct me if this is wrong.

    Assuming your hive has an entrance on each end, place a leader board against the last comb in your current hive. Then hang your queen on the opposite side of the board from where the main of the hive is at.Then I would start with one frame of comb at a time and inspect it thoroughly. If you are 100% convinced that you don't see a queen on that frame, then place it in the new end of the box with the new queen. If you do find a queen, kill her, since she obviously sucks at her job. In the end you will have moved all the frames and in doing so slowly introduced them to a new queen pheromone.

    Now this doesn't solve the issue if you have a laying worker. Is this the same thread where we discussed what to do about LW. It seems like eveyone says you are almost doomed at that point, because the LW may kill the new queen or whatever. In that case I really don't know what to do. I wonder if it would be worth it to put the queen inside a secondary sort of barrier to protect her from any rowdy laying work that may try to sting her.

    Does anyone know how long a queen can go without an attendant feeding her? And if her pheromone pervades the hive will LW's stop laying?

    Tell you what, if you do this and transfer frames, just look for any worker bee that looks like she might have a bad attitude. If she does, then she might be that bitter LW that knows her days of being a drone mother are about over. Just slap her around a little bit and go about your business.
    After 20 months I'm over a 20 hives and growing. See my videos! http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8fVrmUsyYlRuASdX6UQk1g

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Nucs? Trouble with my new hive?

    Lucretia,
    You're gonna have to find your queen, if you've got one. The reason I asked about the size of your hive
    is to see if our bars would interchange. I use a 19" top bar with around a 10" comb depth. I was going to see
    if you wanted to take a 6 hour car trip. I have a lot of brood we could use to boost you with. If we did Micheal
    Bush's panacea for queenless situations. It could mean several trips from and back to Dallas.
    I run R.Weaver's All-Americans or, daughters of them. I currently have two hives with Weaver mated queens
    in them. They're loaded with brood. Almost have 4ft long hives maxed out.
    If you bring some of your own bars, we could hair clip a comb to them.
    This is just an offer if you want to.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Nucs? Trouble with my new hive?

    Thanks Lucretia! I'm still worried about them but trying to keep the faith.

    I read somewhere about trying to get around a laying worker by taking a bar of hatching brood and putting it with a bar of honey/pollen in a nuc until they got used to the new queen and it would be OK. The field bees are evidently the problem. Hope that isn't your issue, that it is just a bad queen that you can find and dispatch!

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Nucs? Trouble with my new hive?

    Oh, Colleen, let us know what happens! I hope it all comes right soon. =)

    Good news here -- my bees seem to have accepted the new queen with no issues! She released today and I've been able to watch her through the observation window, and she's just crawling all around with her little court following along with her. And thanks to Steven I now have new workers and the bees have been very happily attending to the new combs. (Thank you Steven!!! ) The hive energy seems to have picked up a whole lot, too. So, I'll keep you all updated, but so far, so good!

    And yes...um...now that I've had a chance to really look at and observe the new queen....I see what you guys meant about that other bee being a drone. Yup. My new queen is clearly marked so I'll have no trouble this time around. LOL

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Nucs? Trouble with my new hive?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lucretia View Post
    Oh, Colleen, let us know what happens! I hope it all comes right soon. =)

    Good news here -- my bees seem to have accepted the new queen with no issues! She released today and I've been able to watch her through the observation window, and she's just crawling all around with her little court following along with her. And thanks to Steven I now have new workers and the bees have been very happily attending to the new combs. (Thank you Steven!!! ) The hive energy seems to have picked up a whole lot, too. So, I'll keep you all updated, but so far, so good!

    And yes...um...now that I've had a chance to really look at and observe the new queen....I see what you guys meant about that other bee being a drone. Yup. My new queen is clearly marked so I'll have no trouble this time around. LOL
    Yay!! I'm so happy you've got the new queen and they have accepted her! That was really great of Steven Ogborn to help you out!

    Thanks for asking about my bees. I inpected my girls again today. They are doing well (capped brood, larva, queen), just not expanding much (4 fully drawn brood bars, one partial, and one partial filled with honey and pollen) so I have decided to start feeding them again with the hope that will help them. I stopped when I saw the first capped honey on the bars but the honey they had stored at the top of the brood bars seems to be dwindling a bit. I think it may just be that I worry about them too much because I lost the other hive. I check on them once a week, partly just for me to learn, but maybe I should only check on them every two weeks or so. I did see some evidence of mites and 2 SHBs and I was also monitoring that but as of today the hive looks really clean of pests. We'll see if they take the food and if it helps them expand or not, then I'll decide about the checking schedule.

    Let us know when you see that new queen of yours laying some eggs and you get capped worker brood from her!

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