What my weak hive is telling me (or not) - queenless, laying worker, or ill?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Clarkston, Michigan USA

    Default What my weak hive is telling me (or not) - queenless, laying worker, or ill?

    I must be a lucky one - this is the first package that's given me trouble in my few years of hobby beekeeping.
    - Spotty, few brood on frames. Many of the capped brood are single bullets - drone - in worker comb.
    - Saw signs of chalkbrood early on, about 3-5 instances in one inspection.
    - I Induced queen rearing by slicing a third of a cell of a young larva in a couple of places (shown to me by Joe at Country Barn Farm). I since found an open queen cell that I hoped meant a new queen emerged.
    - Have been donating capped brood from a stronger hive - twice
    - Alas, no changes - the emerged queen was perhaps killed or was non-productive.
    - I think I saw at one point one cell with more than one egg, but nothing like the stock photos of workers that lay (3-5 eggs per, etc.) But there have been eggs here and there.
    - Still some signs of illness in the hive as well. Some gooey inside brood cells. Didn't check for AFB. I'm not experienced with the illnesses, honestly.

    I obtained a Northern Queen from the Northern Bee Network with the intention of introducing her to the hive. All I have to do is find the old queen, retire her, and manage the release of the new one. But...I never found her. Searched twice. Second guessed myself 3 times and removed 3 workers who looked suspicious (e.g. putting abdomens in cells), out of frustration. Sometimes you want a bee to look like a queen. Of course none were, but I took them elsewhere.
    I happened to leave the queen in her cage nearby during this process and some of the bees from a nearby frame really took to her and seemed good to her. I left them on the queen cage and decided to start a nuc with the queen instead, while I could wrap my head around what this hive is telling me.

    It sounds like (thanks to Michael Bush) that perhaps my hive is queenless but I've suppressed the drone workers with the introduction of brood. If I were a risk taker I'd combine the nuc into this hive in a few days (using newspaper method). If I'm risk-adverse I'll shake out all the bees 100 feet away (as per Beekeeping for Dummies) in case I have laying workers, and lose the house bees while keeping the returning field force. I'm torn on which way to go. There is an element of illness in the hive as well, which could perhaps be resolved by removing the bees. And it's not like there are a lot of bees. It is a weak hive, after all.


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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    West Bath, Maine, United States

    Default Re: What my weak hive is telling me (or not) - queenless, laying worker, or ill?

    I think you are doing what is right for you. Take the frame from your good hive and invest that in your new queen rather than the old. If you are not sure of disease and it has had multiple chances, let it fade away or put it down. It has not spread to your strong hive the risk should be lower letting it ride. Sometimes they just will not start queen cells. You can usually find a few eggs on the very outside of the brood nest, often just a small circle on one side with stores on the other. That is the frame I choose if I am not willing to make a big investment in a hive.
    You can start the new nuc with only a frame until she gets released and accepted, then shake more off in front of it.
    It is hard to design a safety net that some will not use as a hammock.

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