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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
    Posts
    12

    Default When do I need to worry?

    First of all, thanks so much to the experienced beeks out there who read these posts and offer their wisdom and knowledge to help the fledging newbies among us. I really sincerely appreciate the help and advice.

    Okay, onto the question(s)... We have two brand new hives this year--one top-bar, one Langstroth. We installed 3 lb. packages on May 2nd, and have been feeding a combination of sugar syrup (warmed daily because of our unseasonably cold weather) and pollen patties since. Both hives have drawn out a fraction of comb on four bars, but I cannot find any eggs in either of them. The top-bar comb is gorgeous, but appears to only be filled with honey (more likely the sugar syrup and water) and a little pollen (the unseasonably cold weather I mentioned, along with lots of rain/thunder storms, has significantly reduced their ability to forage), but not an egg or larva in sight. It did take them quite a while to build up comb and there were some interesting things going on in the first week following install including what looked like a mini swarm where a minority group left the hive, presumably with a queen and never returned, and another time exactly one week ago on May 11 (our one beautiful Spring-like day since install) when nearly all the bees were completely outside of the hive enacting something apocalyptic in our backyard before filing back inside the hive as if nothing happened about an hour later. I thought at the time that they were absconding, but I think they may have taken a virgin queen (perhaps our package had two queens?) on a mating flight. We have pretty much had bad weather non-stop since until today when I finally checked the hive hoping to see eggs, and saw none...

    The Langstroth hive is a different beast entirely. They started getting to work much faster than the top-bar, and within the first 5 days I saw eggs. Unfortunately, those eggs were on burr comb, which I, per the advice I received here, removed from the hive about a week ago. On my check today, I cannot see any eggs like those I saw in the burr comb, but I did see what looked to me like queen cells. I'm not yet adept enough to know if they are inhabited or not. There were a few other capped cells, but very few, and I don't know if they were capped honey or capped brood. The other cells are open honey (again, probably sugar water) pollen, and water. I know there was a good laying queen in the hive at one point, but I'm afraid I may have injured her when I was removing the burr comb (I never saw her, btw) or perhaps something else is preventing her from laying more eggs. Oh, one other side-note comparison between these two is their temperament. The top-bar bees seem far more aggressive than the very docile Langstroth bees.

    Okay, any thoughts from the experienced hands? Do I continue to be patient and wait it out another few days or week, or should I try to buy a queen for one or both hives ASAP? Looking ahead, the weather should be better in the coming week. Maybe the queens are just slow to lay eggs because it has been so inclement? If now is not the time to worry, when is the right time to worry?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Castle Rock, Colorado, USA
    Posts
    269

    Default Re: When do I need to worry?

    Trying not to worry is difficult. I wish everyone who ordered their first hive as a package could find this info first. Then they would either chose to buy a nuc, or arrange to "borrow" some brood from another beek. Today would be your magical "2 weeks" referred to below.

    From "The Hive and the Honeybee" - Management of package bees :

    "There comes a critical time in the progress of the package colony, usually about 3 weeks after it is hived when the new brood produced from the eggs of the queen reached a relatively high point in proportion to the number of adult bees. Many of the (package bees) will have died, and no young bees will have emerged. It is often at this time that supersedure ... occurs..., probably because the population is out of balance. This can largely be overcome by giving the package colony a comb of emerging brood and bees from a healthy colony, placing this comb next to the brood combs in the package colony. This should be done about two weeks after the package is installed; colonies so treated will gain surprisingly in strength."

    I do this all the time. Sprinkling a little syrup on both the new frame of brood, and across the top of the package colony brood frames greatly enhances the introduction. "Surprisingly" is an understatement, in my experience.

    ---------------------

    As you have just gotten this point, it appears things have progressed more rapidly - perhaps with the inclement weather? Your first hive may have tried to depart with a clipped queen? The good news is she MAY still be in there. The second hive seems to be a bit behind the first - preparing to supercede. Any occupied queen cell will look like it has a pool of clear/cream in the (top) bottom almost immediately. I'm almost certain there should be pictures somewhere on this forum. As difficult as it may be, either waiting, or perhaps just trying to find a local beekeeper who could "loan" you some frames of brood or eggs will increase your options. Ordering more queens is also a possible solution, but MAY be premature, and you end up with a couple expensive queens to decide what to do with.

    As to temperament, I checked two strong hives today. It was warm, sunny, afternoon, and there was a flow going on. The first was exceptionally gentle - a dozen or so guards bumping my veil as I went through 3 mediums of mostly brood - looking in vain for QC's (none found). This was with NO smoke... Second hive, well, I came in and ordered 2 queens so I can requeen/split that HOT monster. It acted like the queen hit a batch of african drone seed. It will also make nice donor brood for my pkgs.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Rockford, MI
    Posts
    2,745

    Default Re: When do I need to worry?

    Be patient. A week of good weather (like this week) and your hive will look quite different than it does now.
    My packages (also May 2) just started to take off in the last few days. Eggs, larvae and capped brood are filling the drawn comb.
    Check them next week on a good day. I found that bees really know what they are doing and have been doing so for a very long time.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
    Posts
    12

    Default Re: When do I need to worry?

    Thanks for your responses. I'll try to be patient. It sounds like one more week should give me something of a definitive answer? I wish I had some beek friends I could borrow brood from, but so many people up here lost their hives over winter and I'm reluctant to ask them to part with their valuable brood. Next time, though, I definitely think I will begin with a nuc.

    Mr. Beeman, I'm curious if we got our packages from the same place. Did you order from Napoleon Bee Supply?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Rockford, MI
    Posts
    2,745

    Default Re: When do I need to worry?

    Nope... Don Lam out of Holland.

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