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  1. #1
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    Jun 2014
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    Default Why would workers ball young queen in a nuke?

    Yesterday while checking for signs of egg laying I found young queen on interior side of brood chamber. No sign found. They appeared to be balling her and where fanitical about staying in ball even though she could get away if I poked ball apart with fingers. Ball would split into parts and act almost like miniature swarms. Bees in close proximity appeared to be producing the collection signal. I could also hear a lot of "zeep-zeep" sounds coming from ball. Are they preparing to swarm?

  2. #2
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    Feb 2006
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    Herrick, SD USA
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    Default Re: Why would workers ball young queen in a nuke?

    It's one of the oddities of "beehavior". Seems like an inspection when a new queen is just getting established can, on occasion, trigger an event like this and the reason most experienced beekeepers choose to leave newly introduced queens alone for a couple of weeks to get established. If you are sure it is a viable, young queen I would suggest caging, and reintroducing her if she hasn't been too badly mauled. However, if she appears to be an older queen it may be part of an orderly supercedure.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Why would workers ball young queen in a nuke?

    Queen should have been freshly mated about 1 week ago and was reared by same colony.

  4. #4
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    Jan 2014
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    Manassas, Virginia, USA
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    Default Re: Why would workers ball young queen in a nuke?

    I just ran a formic acid fumigation in which the paper I was following said that in their early tests with straight 50% FA the queens were balled about 25% of the time. They added some Honey Bee Healthy to the mix and the balling rate dropped to around 4-5% They also recommended spraying the brood frames with 1:1 sugar water and HBH to prevent balling during FA fumigation.

    Maybe this is a good reason to have a spray bottle of 1:1 with HBH handy? Possibly a quick spray will interrupt whatever is setting off balling, likely some smell that they interpret as a foriegn queen?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
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    Granby, MO
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    105

    Default Re: Why would workers ball young queen in a nuke?

    This occurred in two nucs I started this spring. I put the queens in cages with honey comb plug and within 24 hours the queens were released and no longer being balled.

  6. #6
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    May 2012
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    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Why would workers ball young queen in a nuke?

    Had the same thing happen last year one time, I had to cage the queen overnight. She's still going but she'll never fly again as her wings got shredded sometime after being uncaged. She was fine the first few days and laying well, a week later, shredded wings slightly, a week after that, not much left but she overwintered and has a very strong hive now.

  7. #7
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    Feb 2014
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    Clinton, Iowa
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    761

    Default Re: Why would workers ball young queen in a nuke?

    This happened in a hive of ours that appears to have swarmed in the middle to late part of August. When we saw queen cells we pulled out and came back looking for eggs when the calendar said to. I found a small patch of eggs, but saw queen cells on the next frame so I pulled it out and looked as well. I saw a lump of bees on the comb and thought "that looks odd". I lightly blew on them and they opened up revealing a queen underneath. She kind of took off running, the bees gave chase, one tried to sting her as she ran by and missed. I snagged her and caged her. When I put her on the top bars the bees couldn't have cared less about her. Not really knowing the next step, I popped the cage open and she walked down towards the top of a frame. They resumed the same behavior. Before I closed it up, I popped open some capped honey and lightly drizzled some honey on the ball of bees.

    Came back a few days later and every available worker sized cell in the hive has an egg in it. She sure didn't appear to have been a virgin, she looked as big as any queen I've seen in my limited experience. There were still some capped queen cells in the hive after she had it laid up. I broken them off and opened them up. One was a dead larva and one was either empty or it had been emptied out in some way that wasn't obvious from the outside.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Why would workers ball young queen in a nuke?

    Quote Originally Posted by jwcarlson View Post
    This happened in a hive of ours that appears to have swarmed in the middle to late part of August. When we saw queen cells we pulled out and came back looking for eggs when the calendar said to. I found a small patch of eggs, but saw queen cells on the next frame so I pulled it out and looked as well. I saw a lump of bees on the comb and thought "that looks odd". I lightly blew on them and they opened up revealing a queen underneath. She kind of took off running, the bees gave chase, one tried to sting her as she ran by and missed. I snagged her and caged her. When I put her on the top bars the bees couldn't have cared less about her. Not really knowing the next step, I popped the cage open and she walked down towards the top of a frame. They resumed the same behavior. Before I closed it up, I popped open some capped honey and lightly drizzled some honey on the ball of bees.

    Came back a few days later and every available worker sized cell in the hive has an egg in it. She sure didn't appear to have been a virgin, she looked as big as any queen I've seen in my limited experience. There were still some capped queen cells in the hive after she had it laid up. I broken them off and opened them up. One was a dead larva and one was either empty or it had been emptied out in some way that wasn't obvious from the outside.
    Your observations closest to mine.

    Two weak colonies set to produce queens on same day, one source of observations noted yesterday, still have queens not yet in lay. Today with second look; both queens with relatively small abdomens and they are both the most active bees on the comb. Balling occurs in both but often occurs some distance from queen location. Neither queen has been damaged. Is possible the pheromone produced to attract drones also stimulates the "balling" behavior of the workers.

  9. #9
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    Dec 2010
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    Ojai, California
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    1,084

    Default Re: Why would workers ball young queen in a nuke?

    Balling behavior is the opposite of acceptance.

    One of the things beekeepers do in manipulating bees is to constantly put new queens on old comb, instead of letting bees swarm and make new comb. This can confuse things a bit - fooling bees with smells that have gotten built into the wax.

    I've recommended the Laidlaw queen introduction cage several times before, and I'm making a run of 100 more for next year. The theory is that the cage protects the queen from balling attacks while she begins laying eggs. Laying eggs brings up her production of queen substances (including pheromones), which brings about acceptance by queenless bees, unless they are laying workers.

    BeePro of Sacramento, Ca., came up with adding a mated queen to a frame of capped brood under a cage of screen or hardware cloth when laying workers are present. She generally out-lives the laying workers, saving the hive.

    Phoebee - That's a good trick you pass along - confuse the smell before they attack with a sprayer of syrup + HBH. Thank you.

  10. #10
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    Jun 2014
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    Holts Summit, Missouri, USA
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    Default Re: Why would workers ball young queen in a nuke?

    Please read details of my post to keep responses appropriate to situation at hand. Queens reared in colonies they are to head. Still both present. Balling behavior still ongoing although queen not always in the ball. No brood evident. We are roughly two weeks past when queens should have been in lay. One shows damage to extremity of wing. At this point both nukes are going to be considered a bust and reunited with a stronger colony.

    Could queen productivity be promoted by placing a frame of young brood into brood area?

  11. #11
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    Dec 2012
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    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Why would workers ball young queen in a nuke?

    I don't understand this situation. If they are past their laying/mating period then won't they become a drone layer queen later on? If the wing is damaged then the chance of a mating flight is close to nil. No wonder there is no brood egg in there. Does she look mated at all? Yes, if the queen is mated then putting a frame of young brood will help to get her laying.
    I luv bee source!

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Why would workers ball young queen in a nuke?

    Quote Originally Posted by beepro View Post
    I don't understand this situation. If they are past their laying/mating period then won't they become a drone layer queen later on? If the wing is damaged then the chance of a mating flight is close to nil. No wonder there is no brood egg in there. Does she look mated at all? Yes, if the queen is mated then putting a frame of young brood will help to get her laying.
    Appropriate time for nuptial flights occurred during good weather well before damage to one queens wing. I do not know how to discriminate between virgin and mated queens unless returning from nuptial flight. I will see if young brood does the trick.

  13. #13
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    Jun 2014
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    Default Re: Why would workers ball young queen in a nuke?

    After three weeks, balling still occurs for one nuc. Queen of that nuc does not appear damaged. No brood of any sort present.


    Queen of other colony can not be found but we did find 8 queen cells with all but one sealed. Two were sacrificed to confirm presence of larvae/pupae. Those cells should represent something that was produced after queens being balled should have been in lay. In addition to queen cells, there were capped drone brood scattered about in worker cells. I hope they do not attempt to rear queens from drone larvae. Did this queen lay a few good eggs before being killed?

    A single frame of eggs / very young larvae was added to each in an effort to get workers back into royal jelly making mode.

  14. #14
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    Jun 2014
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    Default Re: Why would workers ball young queen in a nuke?

    Hypothesis starting to form on this balling behavior. Colonies doing it have a deficit of nurse bees and the pheromone / hormone mix needed to sustain a queen. The deficit is not an absolute number of bees, rather it is a ratio. This is caused by a prolonged period of greatly reduced brood rearing since both colonies reared queen for second time with major infusion of new workers. Average worker age in these colonies are much older than in queen right colonies of same apiary as now evident by many with tattered wings and near hairlessness. The pheromone / hormone changes associated with laying workers are starting to kick in. When a proper queen comes in she has a much stronger pheromone mix. Since the workers have so little brood they are switching into swarming mode actually inside the hive. Colony is not going through complete mental switch to produce a swarm and simply restrains queen without getting her conditioned for coming into lay.

    Two ways might override this. First is by introducing a lot of very young brood to force pheromone / hormone switch into one conducive for supporting a laying queen. This being attempted by introducing brood 2 days ago. Second couple be to simply shake all bees of comb to form an artificial swarm to force a reboot of all bees thinking they are in a new hive making so more will switch back into nurse bee mode. I might play with this next year with the nucs that fail to produce a laying queen in first go and ball later reared queens.

  15. #15
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    Jan 2009
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    Cookeville, TN, USA
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    Default Re: Why would workers ball young queen in a nuke?

    Quote Originally Posted by centrarchid View Post
    Please read details of my post to keep responses appropriate to situation at hand.

    Could queen productivity be promoted by placing a frame of young brood into brood area?
    If you think this thread is off subject - well, you aint seen nothin' yet.

    It never hurts to add brood. But this late in the season I MIGHT replace a queen that is laying a bad pattern in an otherwise healthy ballanced hive. But other than that Iwould shake them out and/or combine most any hive with queen or population demographic issues - I don't think there is time for them to gain ballance before winter.

    The question of why may be interesting, but with every passkng day the choice of good options becomes more and more limited. Just my personal opinion though.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  16. #16
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    Nov 2009
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    Default Re: Why would workers ball young queen in a nuke?

    It can happen especially with virgins, newly mated or newly introduced queens. When you find this happening it is a perfect time to use a push in queen cage for three or four days. It is often times better to leave hives alone that are in the process of making a new queen or have been recently requeened. Or atleast doing minimal inspections.

  17. #17
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    Jun 2014
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    Holts Summit, Missouri, USA
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    Default Re: Why would workers ball young queen in a nuke?

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    If you think this thread is off subject - well, you aint seen nothin' yet.

    It never hurts to add brood. But this late in the season I MIGHT replace a queen that is laying a bad pattern in an otherwise healthy ballanced hive. But other than that Iwould shake them out and/or combine most any hive with queen or population demographic issues - I don't think there is time for them to gain ballance before winter.

    The question of why may be interesting, but with every passkng day the choice of good options becomes more and more limited. Just my personal opinion though.
    I am good on the number of strong hives to overwinter. Intent is to explore how queen rearing process has gone awry and how it might be corrected. Nucs in question will either be destroyed or if queen-rightness realized quickly overwintered above stronger colonies. I do see the balance issue as major.

  18. #18
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    Jun 2014
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    Default Re: Why would workers ball young queen in a nuke?

    Colony where queen has been balled every time I checked for last 2 weeks has now stopped. Two days ago a frame of very young brood was added that greatly changed colony disposition. Queen calmer and abdomen showing signs of distension. Workers orient on her but do not try to hang on.

    Balling behavior as noted I think is different than that associated with queens released from cage.

  19. #19
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    Jun 2014
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    Default Re: Why would workers ball young queen in a nuke?

    Queen referred above now in lay and filling out brood comb very well. She will need to be swapped out early next year owing to wing damage. Remaining colony that re-queened itself from a very young queen now has a new queen that should be ready for mating flights in next day or so. Very young worker brood will be added today to prevent balling of her when she starts giving off stronger queen pheromones. Both colonies have worker demographics skewed towards very old bees although newly queenright colony should start to recover from that in less than two weeks. Latter colony will be infused with emerging brood from strong colonies to get them balanced out for wintering. Should have no problem getting energy reserves (honey) and pollen stored for winter.

  20. #20
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    Jun 2014
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    Holts Summit, Missouri, USA
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    Default Re: Why would workers ball young queen in a nuke?

    Third colony with balling problem was provided a frame of very young brood yesterday. Tomorrow colony will be checked for balling status and few days later for eggs. The balling appears to start about time queen should take mating flights. I wander if queens are able to break ball easily enough to get out and mate. What is really interesting that colonies that ball generally have multiple balls at any given moment although the largest is on the queen. Drone number has taken a nose dive so queen may have trouble getting her quota of dates.

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