Re-combining a split, now that one has a laying worker. (Madness?)
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  1. #1
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    Jun 2016
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    Cass County, Michigan, USA
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    Question Re-combining a split, now that one has a laying worker. (Madness?)

    I currently have a hive that's 5 mediums tall, and its split (one medium tall) that I'd made to control for swarm. I made the split after finding 8-10 swarm cells already capped, in late April. I also have a queenright hive nearby, unrelated to these.

    (This is my first year to have overwintered any hives, so I am new to the swarm control, and split-making thing.)

    The way I did the split is that I moved the original queen out to a 10-frame medium box (about 10ft away) with 5 frames bees+brood and 5 honey/pollen. It has been slow to build up. Today, I see a nice amount of capped worker brood on two frames, lovely pattern, but almost nothing but nectar on the rest. At least two frames are drawn foundation, ready for eggs, and I moved one of these closer to the queen. Bees are covering only about 4 frames, with most frames devoid of action.

    The original hive I'd left with 2 capped queen cells (I removed the rest) and probably many open cells with eggs. They were 5 mediums tall, and packed, bearding and defensive (which is their usual attitude, frankly) just two weeks ago... so I added a medium super and checkerboarded a little to give them room. I didn't see a queen at that inspection. I did not notice any after-swarms; and population has remained high until just this week. Today there is no bearding, far less action at the entrance, the boxes are no longer quite so packed with bees, I see lots of larva but *no capped worker brood* in any boxes, and I see multiple eggs in cells. There were two swarm cells with larva --which I hope my inspection didn't ruin (but no supercedure cells). I see a lot of 'popcorn' (random) drone brood throughout the brood boxes, and a lot of drones. The top boxes have a lot of uncapped honey/nectar. Maybe I could wait to see if the swarm cells yield anything, but it doesn't look like the hive has any queen eggs left for emergency cell making, if that doesn't work. And I think if it's workers laying, they may have gone a while without a queen... so maybe it is better not to delay taking action. (?)

    Now that population is down, I was thinking about recombining the split. I don't want to lose my queen, though, if some workers have gone rogue and started laying, and it sounds like losing her is a possibility if I try to recombine. Do you think they might accept her more readily because she was once their queen (will the pheromone be familiar in some way?) or are they likely to be fickle, and stay loyal to the laying worker?

    I am reading on the forum of a couple of methods to combine -- either using newspaper, or doing a shakeout. I am wondering if the small queenright (QR) hive stands a better chance of defending itself and incorporating queenless refugees if I gradually do a shakeout of the LW hive, say, one box per week. If you think this is feasible, would you suggest I start this by moving the QR box back onto its original site (swapping it with the LW tower). My wishful thinking is that if there are many foragers left in the LW tower they might actually go out in the morning and then accidentally return with pollen and nectar to their original site (which would have the original queen, now, in her small box), and that there might be gradual drift 'home' as well as my weekly shakeout. If I do this, I imagine I could also gradually carry over the uncapped nectar frames and start slowly "towering up" over the original queen so they will eventually cap it. What could possibly go wrong??!

    What do you think you'd do in this situation?

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
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    bedford virginia
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    Default Re: Re-combining a split, now that one has a laying worker. (Madness?)

    I would wait on the two swarm cells.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Re-combining a split, now that one has a laying worker. (Madness?)

    wait and see. some drone cells are expected in a large healthy hive this time of year. young queens can lay multiple eggs in one cell and have drone eggs scattered about. wait and see. a laying worker problem starts when there is no capped brood and develops over time. wait and see what happens. from your entry above, my guess is you are in good shape.

  5. #4
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    Jun 2016
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    Default Re: Re-combining a split, now that one has a laying worker. (Madness?)

    Wouldn't you expect to see some worker brood? There is nothing capped but the scattered drone comb... unless... Are you suggesting that once the larva I can see is capped, it may turn out that some of it is actually worker? I guess I am just nervous because it's been over a month since I separated them from the queen. I did leave them capped queen cells --so I would have expected a shorter timeline than if they raised one from an egg-- and I don't yet see any capped worker brood. (plus drones; plus multiple eggs/cell) But I guess I can be patient, and wait. Thanks for the replies.

  6. #5
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    Knoxville, TN, USA
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    Default Re: Re-combining a split, now that one has a laying worker. (Madness?)

    Quote Originally Posted by Kabnetz View Post
    Wouldn't you expect to see some worker brood? There is nothing capped but the scattered drone comb... unless... Are you suggesting that once the larva I can see is capped, it may turn out that some of it is actually worker? I guess I am just nervous because it's been over a month since I separated them from the queen. I did leave them capped queen cells --so I would have expected a shorter timeline than if they raised one from an egg-- and I don't yet see any capped worker brood. (plus drones; plus multiple eggs/cell) But I guess I can be patient, and wait. Thanks for the replies.
    Can you post any photos of what you see? That may be helpful to assist further in your issue.

    I would not recombine that original queen with the laying worker hive, personally. While the common name is the "Laying worker" problem, it is likely that there are multiple laying workers and the laying worker(s) hive have a high rejection rate of introduced queens, so you'd be risking losing both, in my opinion.

    You should see some capped worker cells. You could also have a drone laying queen.

    I raised a few of my own queens this year in nucs from my established colonies. I returned to one nuc around day 23 and found 1-4 eggs per cell and no evidence of a queen. So, I just shook them out and removed the original hive. In your situation with a larger hive, I would probably try to salvage it by either A) waiting it out if there is any evidence of a queen in there or B) introducing a frame of uncapped brood for pheromone(s) to suppress the ovaries of the laying workers every 5-6 days until they start to produce another queen, if you have the resources to do that. If your other colonies are not strong enough to spare the brood, then I would wait another 2 weeks and if nothing, then just shake those bees out and split up the frames to use among your other colonies.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Re-combining a split, now that one has a laying worker. (Madness?)

    Your description does sound like laying worker, only scattered drone brood, dwindling population, multiple eggs in cells. Are the multiple cells just laying on the bottom of the cell and random, or are they pinned to the back wall? Are some of the drone cells in smaller worker cells? If so, probably laying worker. New queens can lay a few eggs in cells for a while, but why would there be queen cells? Laying worker hives do make queen cells sometimes, but with drone larva, so it won't go anywhere.

    If you have enough resources and the hive is strong enough yet, you can add eggs/brood once a week from your other hives and they can eventually make queen cells. That takes other resources and quite a bit of time. 3 weeks for a queen cell maybe, then 3 weeks or more for a laying queen. If you wait on the queen cells and it's laying worker, you may be waiting on nothing. The cells may disappear and you don't know if queens emerged or drone cells were torn down. They seem to get capped, then before emergence time, they are torn down.

    If you wanted to combine, I would first remove most honey and extract or place on other hives, then move the laying worker hive away from it's original location and letting the returning foragers find one of the other hives near the old location and beg their way in. That would be safe for the other hives and build them up since they are entering a hive not their own. You may be able to shake out the laying worker after it's dwindled more.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Re-combining a split, now that one has a laying worker. (Madness?)

    I would give it a week to see if that "lots of larvae" turn into worker or drone brood. As a geneneral note by the time they have gone laying worker, you have a quickly dwindling population of old bees that have no real value. After trying to salvage LW hives through a variety of methods, I have come to the conclusion that it is better just to dump them out and give the drawn comb to another hive to clean up. Combining with a strong hive would probably be okay, but they could still kill the queen.
    Adam - Zone 5A
    www.adamshoney.com

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Re-combining a split, now that one has a laying worker. (Madness?)

    Thanks for all the advice. I did a shakeout, removing the whole hive from its spot in the yard. I put the most nectar-full frames on top of my strongest hive, for capping. Two more boxes with decent frames were salvaged and placed on top of the two nucs I'd just received the night before. All enterprising workers who were shaken out had a place to go (most headed for the closest hive). I had entrance reducers on for the occasion. A few weeks later, now, and all hives seem to be in decent shape (queens present).

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