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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Tucson, Arizona, USA
    Posts
    5,300

    Default Mystery of Nuc absconding

    Well, build-up is going strong, so I've been raising queens and splitting. Last night I was rounding up empty, idle combs that still need trimming of End Bars to 1-1/4" width, and Top Bars to 7/8" width. While doing this I used my red LED headlight, so not to overly disturb colonies I was sorting through.

    I discovered a surprise; one nuc, which was even one that was established in 2013, and had been going strong -- was entirely empty of bees, not a single adult bee was in the nuc, not even any dead ones, but four of their five combs were 1/3 full of capped worker brood (this brood nest was centered in the rear 1/3 of the four brood containing combs), with a rim of younger brood, then pollen/nectar. Some of the larvae had begun crawling from their cells, I attribute this to their not being fed, properly.

    In an attempt to rescue any of this brood that hadn't yet starved or been chilled, I placed them above the brood nest of an adjacent strong nuc. Once any surviving capped brood begins emerging, I can consider using it for a replacement split.

    The only other time I remember seeing brood abandoned like this, was when all my colonies were likely AHB, and I tried making a split, the split with the queen, absconded leaving brood and stores behind. They didn't return to the parent location, but left the vicinity of the apiary, never to be seen again. In that case, too, there weren't even any stragglers left to tend the brood.

    Has anyone else seen such behavior?
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    KC, MO, USA
    Posts
    1,092

    Default Re: Mystery of Nuc absconding

    No brood diseases right? Shot gun brood patern? No heavy mite loads?

    Maybe those were AHB too.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Tucson, Arizona, USA
    Posts
    5,300

    Default Re: Mystery of Nuc absconding

    No obvious brood disease, not even PMS, excellent, solid brood pattern. Mites unknown, no mites on sample of a dozen sealed brood pupa, opened to check.

    It is always possible that a queen mated with too many wild AHB drones, and they're just exhibiting AHB behaviors.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Lincolnton, NC
    Posts
    1,099

    Default Re: Mystery of Nuc absconding

    Quote Originally Posted by Joseph Clemens View Post
    It is always possible that a queen mated with too many wild AHB drones, and they're just exhibiting AHB behaviors.
    Were they aggressive like AHB or exibited other AHB traits?
    Lawrence Heafner
    15 hives; 15 years; TF for 10; Zone 7B

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Ft Myers, Fl 33967
    Posts
    159

    Default Re: Mystery of Nuc absconding

    Joe
    I run into the same thing rather frequently. In SW Florida I am in AHB country and most of my hives are feral cutouts.
    They will abscond on the slightest disturbance, real or Imanaged. I keep a queen excluder over the entrance on all my hives to prevent them from leaving. Not always successful either.
    AHB will not necessarly be hositle just because they have some African ansestory in there someplace. As the queen runs out of seman from one male and begins to use another males deposit the tempermant of the hive can/wil change.
    I can't say for certain but what you describe fits the pattern I see/
    Regards
    Joe

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Tucson, Arizona, USA
    Posts
    5,300

    Default Re: Mystery of Nuc absconding

    heaflaw,

    No other obvious AHB characteristics, and I've seen many of those characteristics. This would be the only indicator of possible AHB influence - though that's not unusual.

    Back in my first decade in this general area, all I kept were bees from local cutouts and splits from those. Though I captured and hived many dozens of swarms, I couldn't keep a single one in residence, unless they moved in on their own. But for ~ 15 years now, I switched to imported EHB queens, and rarely see this behavior, or other obvious AHB behaviors, with the queens I raise, in house.

    In retrospect, the bees that were residing here (in the recently vacated/abandoned nuc), may be the bees that tried to usurp my queenless cell builder colony. They were on one end of an eight foot nuc support bench, with the cell builder in the center of the bench, and I was able to divert them into an empty nuc on the opposite end of the same bench. They are still there, today (a few days later), and have filled this 5-frame medium nuc with comb, brood, nectar and pollen. BTW, while they were moving into these quarters that they occupy, now, they had entered the empty nuc, vacated the nuc, then returned and reentered the nuc, at least twice, as I watched (all in about an hour).
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Lincolnton, NC
    Posts
    1,099

    Default Re: Mystery of Nuc absconding

    AHB really does have very different characteristics than EHB.
    Lawrence Heafner
    15 hives; 15 years; TF for 10; Zone 7B

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Utica, NY
    Posts
    9,033

    Default Re: Mystery of Nuc absconding

    Quote Originally Posted by jredburn View Post
    As the queen runs out of seman from one male and begins to use another males deposit the tempermant of the hive can/wil change.
    Joe
    It was my understanding that the semen is mixed not separate. Is this wrong?
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Tucson, Arizona, USA
    Posts
    5,300

    Default Re: Mystery of Nuc absconding

    My understanding is that the semen is all stored together, but may not be a homogeneous mixture, but rather an incompletely blended mixture, like when chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla ice cream are swirled together, you can still see the three separate flavors, and it's still possible to take a separate bite of each flavor, if you spoon carefully.

    In this scenario it could be possible for large groups of workers to be sisters from the same father (drone), and then disparate groups of workers to be from different fathers/drones, at different times - of different ages.
    Last edited by Joseph Clemens; 03-05-2014 at 08:26 AM.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Santa Fe, NM
    Posts
    618

    Default Re: Mystery of Nuc absconding

    Over the years I have seen changes to some of my colonies headed by BeeWeaver bred queens. In some cases this was not a direct result of hybrid vigor of new queens rearing its head because the original queens were marked. I contacted Danny Weaver regarding the possibility of queens having reached the deposited "layers" of African semen as a possibility of this change in behavior. Danny's response was that it was highly likely a cause.
    "Tradition becomes our security, and when the mind is secure it is in decay".....Krishnamurti

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Morro Bay, California, USA
    Posts
    708

    Default Re: Mystery of Nuc absconding

    Sperm is motile, and after insemination migrates to storage. The migration occurs with the active muscular control of the queen.
    There is a literature on the techniques to homogenize artificial insemination sperm for honey bees. (mixing, centrifuge, etc). The need for homogenization in II (instrumental inseminated) queens is present because the queens are anesthetized (with CO2) during insemination, and do not mix the sperm like a naturally flying queen.

    So yes, it is possible some less than optimum mixing of individual drone sperm occurs in natural queens, but the bees have evolved certain behaviors to reduce its incidence.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Bell County, KY, USA
    Posts
    369

    Default Re: Mystery of Nuc absconding

    I've seen them abandon the hive due to mites.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Tucson, Arizona, USA
    Posts
    5,300

    Default Re: Mystery of Nuc absconding

    The brood was rescued, and most of the capped brood was able to be saved. The hive I gave it to, removed all open brood, that first evening, and they also removed a few of the sealed cells. Meanwhile the majority of the sealed brood, appears to be continuing to develop.

    So, I've gone back, and examined other small groups of sealed pupae (besides the group I first examined), in other segments of that brood nest. I still find no Varroa, in any of those cells I've checked. If there are lots of Varroa here, or any at all, they are being extra good at hiding - but I don't think they could run and hide when I open a cell they're breeding in. There was no evidence of PMS (parasitic mite syndrome). I do know what that looks like, I have seen a few cases, from time to time - through the years. I even saw one in a local, fellow beekeepers hive, a week ago. But, I haven't seen any cases of PMS in any of my own hives, yet, this season. Hopefully I won't, but it can and does happen - and when it does, I don't pretend it didn't, I make note of it, move on, and keep a close eye on that colony, until it recovers.

    Edit: Additionally; so far, they have all recovered.

    Late last summer, there was one colony that developed, what looked like the most serious case of PMS I'd seen, yet. Their entire brood nest was collapsing, and I seriously expected my next inspection to find the colony expired. But, only two weeks later, when I did a follow-up inspection, to my surprise they now had a perfectly healthy brood nest, without a trace of the sick brood that was present in my earlier inspection.
    Last edited by Joseph Clemens; 03-06-2014 at 11:59 AM. Reason: Adding additional observation
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Millbury, MA, USA
    Posts
    1,792

    Default Re: Mystery of Nuc absconding

    I had 2 nucs abscond last September. Have no idea what caused it. They had been treated for mites and were pretty strong. I was open feeding and had pollen patties on them at the time.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Tucson, Arizona, USA
    Posts
    5,300

    Default Re: Mystery of Nuc absconding

    Thanks Cam Bishop,

    At least some company - and from an unexpected location. My condolences, and thanks for reporting your situation, here.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Millbury, MA, USA
    Posts
    1,792

    Default Re: Mystery of Nuc absconding

    Joe, I suspect fall absconding from nucs is more common than many realize. Had one do it last year too. Some is because of mites but I don't think mine were since they had been treated. One the queen quit laying about a week before they left [saw her so I know she was there]. Left some brood behind and considerable stores.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
    Posts
    5,254

    Default Re: Mystery of Nuc absconding

    I see nucs abscond every August. I think because it's too hot and humid for them to cool their hive. They leave the hive just like any swarm, but don't fly around the area and land clustering like any normal swarm. They fly out and away from the yard, never to be seen again. I watched one go last August, and then examined the combs. They had no queens cells or occupied queen cups. All the bees did not leave the hive, but most did. Some of the bees remaining were obviously foragers that were away from the hive when the bees left. The colony raised emergency cells as the absconds nearly always do, but never recovered enough to make my winter.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
    Posts
    2,696

    Default Re: Mystery of Nuc absconding

    Now that I think about it, most of the nucs I lost this fall/winter were not deadouts but rather absconds. I still attribute most of it to mites and then probably robbing but I never find a dead cluster of bees, just an empty box with some scattered capped brood and maybe eggs.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Benton, KY
    Posts
    107

    Default Re: Mystery of Nuc absconding

    if the brood is crawling out of the cell, its because they are hungry, not because of lack of food, but not being fed. If you have propolized pollen then they have stored possible GMO pollen. It you don't have propolized pollen, then you may have a vectored mite disease. I would treat with antibiotic. Check all your surviving hives carefully

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
    Posts
    5,254

    Default Re: Mystery of Nuc absconding

    Quote Originally Posted by JRG13 View Post
    Now that I think about it, most of the nucs I lost this fall/winter were not deadouts but rather absconds. I still attribute most of it to mites and then probably robbing but I never find a dead cluster of bees, just an empty box with some scattered capped brood and maybe eggs.
    Just because there aren't any bees present doesn't mean they absconded.

    You mentioned that there is scattered brood present. Did you examine any of those pupae? Did you see any emerging bees with their tongues out that died while emerging? Look for DWV in those. Look for stunted abdomens.

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