Problem - can I combine two queenless hives?
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  1. #1
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    Question Problem - two queenless hives, what to do?

    What's left of my hive that swarmed 14 days ago (TB1) is now queenless - there's no worker brood left, no larvae and no eggs. There is still a splattering of capped drone brood. It has 29 bars.

    I captured the swarm and have it in a TBnuc close by. At 11 days I inspected it and found no sign of eggs, larvae or brood. It has 8 bars, they're mostly fully drawn and filled with capped honey, pollen and nectar. (We're having a good flow, it is spring here).

    There are no queens currently available in my state and none are allowed to be posted in from other states or countries (I'm in Western Australia - it's practically disease and pest free and strict quarantine laws are in place to keep it that way).

    I have another two young hives (TBs2 and 3 - also captured swarms) doing well, and an inspection a few days ago found TB2 (on its 52nd day) has what appears to be a recently capped queen cell on the same bar as another two uncapped queen cells, one of which has a larvae inside.

    I need expert opinions as to what I should do next. The hive that swarmed is my first - it is 83 days old. It has been cranky from the beginning. Swarming didn't seem to settle it a lot, and the captured swarm now in TBnuc is also a bit cranky, but not as bad. TBs 2 and 3 are lovely, no smoke required and very gentle and quiet.

    Help, please. What would you do?
    Last edited by JD111; 10-09-2016 at 08:28 AM.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Problem - two queenless hives, what to do?

    If TBH2 has just a few queen cells, it might be supercedure. Do you still see eggs in that hive? If so, I'd pull the original queen over to TBH1 and introduce her there. Hopefully, she still has enough eggs left in her to get that one laid up with eggs that they can use for a replacement queen if they feel she is not good enough.

    Take a bar of eggs from TBH3 and introduce it into the TBnuc. If they make queen cells, then they are queenless. BUT they might just be waiting on a virgin queen to get mated. If they don't make queen cells with the eggs you give them, they have a queen. She has 21 days from hatching to get mated.

    I'd let TBH2 keep the queen cells because if those are swarm queen cells, there isn't much you can do to diswuade them from swarming. That's why I say take the laying queen out of there.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Problem - two queenless hives, what to do?

    If tbh 1 swarmed 14 days ago wait one more week then look for eggs. I don't expect eggs after a swarm for 3 weeks.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Problem - two queenless hives, what to do?

    While the "expert" requirement disqualifies me, and I keep bees in Langstroth hives, I would shake out the remnant, forcing them into the other hives. The remaining drone brood, depending on whether I thought they carried "good" genetics or "bad", and whether I felt I needed the drones to mate with my future virgins, I would either transfer them to another hive, or dispatch them and attempt to store the combs until another hive could use them. ( using the 80% coverage rule of thumb)
    The Queenless swarm, I would either donate them eggs, or a queen cell from one of the "sweet tempered" hives. donating eggs risks less if you ultimately lose the whole colony, but if they do have a queen, the Queen cell would be lost, & possibly the hive that donated it. ( due to making it because they needed it). donating a capped queen cell , if accepted , will reduce the number of days before the colony is brooding, etc. If the queenless swarm does not have a queen, they can make one from the "sweet tempered" genetics of the donor hive (eggs)
    The hive that is making queen cells, is it large enough to split?
    with the relative hazards of queen mating, when a hive makes multiple cells, I usually try to split some out into mating nucs, to increase my chances of having a better rate of return.
    I can recombine later, assuming I get a mated queen back.
    While I was typing the above, I see others have also replied, with good thoughts.
    Regarding the existing queen in TB2 ( the one making queen cells) I would consider splitting her out with enough bees , stores & brood to start a nuc, if she is not already gone.
    My advice to split in advance of swarming draws me a lot of criticism, so it may not be that good of advice, but it is what I usually do. Good Luck CE
    Started summer of 2013, just another new guy, tinkering with bees.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Problem - two queenless hives, what to do?

    Quote Originally Posted by ruthiesbees View Post
    If TBH2 has just a few queen cells, it might be supercedure. Do you still see eggs in that hive?
    I looked five days ago (day 52 for this hive) but I didn't notice any eggs. That doesn't mean they're not there, I'm improving but don't always see them. I record my inspections and type them up later. I noted what I call a "peanut" halfway down on bar#4 (15 drawn out bars total, and I added 2 more to the end) with a cup a bit further down with a larvae in it and another cup on the other side. On bar #5 I noted a peanut nearly half way down, open and has larvae in it. On bar# 10 I noted tiny larvae.


    Quote Originally Posted by ruthiesbees View Post
    If so, I'd pull the original queen over to TBH1 and introduce her there. Hopefully, she still has enough eggs left in her to get that one laid up with eggs that they can use for a replacement queen if they feel she is not good enough.
    How would I go about doing that, assuming I could even find her? I've yet to see her in this hive (but have seen TB3s queen each time I'm in there).

    Quote Originally Posted by ruthiesbees View Post
    I'd let TBH2 keep the queen cells because if those are swarm queen cells, there isn't much you can do to diswuade them from swarming. That's why I say take the laying queen out of there.
    On the last inspection (day 38) I also noted a few queen cups on bar#4, one I could see larvae inside of. I added three new bars at that time. If those were/are swarm cells, did adding the extra bars stop them from swarming? And if so, is that likely again this time? What might happen if I took that bar and put it into either TB1 or the nuc if I couldn't find the queen to move her across?


    Quote Originally Posted by ruthiesbees View Post
    Take a bar of eggs from TBH3 and introduce it into the TBnuc. If they make queen cells, then they are queenless. BUT they might just be waiting on a virgin queen to get mated. If they don't make queen cells with the eggs you give them, they have a queen. She has 21 days from hatching to get mated.
    TB3 is my youngest hive (other than the nuc) at 31 days. It has fully drawn comb on 8 bars and about half on #9 (I gave them a new bar between #3 and #4 plus another at the end five days ago). I saw eggs on only one bar (again, there's possibly more I just didn't see) and there's loads of larvae and capped worker brood throughout. Is it too soon to take the bar of eggs from a hive this small? And if I look again and still only see eggs on one bar, should I still take it?

    Thanks for your replies and help Ruth :-)

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Problem - two queenless hives, what to do?

    Quote Originally Posted by Slow Drone View Post
    If tbh 1 swarmed 14 days ago wait one more week then look for eggs. I don't expect eggs after a swarm for 3 weeks.
    Thanks for your reply Slow Drone. It swarmed on day 72 in the life of the hive, two weeks and two days ago. All of the worker brood has hatched out and there's still a bit of capped drone. They are still busy bringing in nectar and pollen. Is this normal after a swarm has left the hive?


    Obviously I should have seen the signs of an imminent swarm when I last inspected it (3 days before it did swarm). There were 8 "peanuts" on four bars plus some empty/open ones. There was no more room to add extra bars. The joys of learning as we go :-)

    There was brood on bars #2 through to #20 but larvae in only six of them. Is that normal, it seems like a lot of brood spread out a long way?

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Problem - two queenless hives, what to do?

    Quote Originally Posted by tech.35058 View Post
    While the "expert" requirement disqualifies me, and I keep bees in Langstroth hives, I would shake out the remnant, forcing them into the other hives. The remaining drone brood, depending on whether I thought they carried "good" genetics or "bad", and whether I felt I needed the drones to mate with my future virgins, I would either transfer them to another hive, or dispatch them and attempt to store the combs until another hive could use them. ( using the 80% coverage rule of thumb)
    The Queenless swarm, I would either donate them eggs, or a queen cell from one of the "sweet tempered" hives. donating eggs risks less if you ultimately lose the whole colony, but if they do have a queen, the Queen cell would be lost, & possibly the hive that donated it. ( due to making it because they needed it). donating a capped queen cell , if accepted , will reduce the number of days before the colony is brooding, etc. If the queenless swarm does not have a queen, they can make one from the "sweet tempered" genetics of the donor hive (eggs)
    The hive that is making queen cells, is it large enough to split?
    with the relative hazards of queen mating, when a hive makes multiple cells, I usually try to split some out into mating nucs, to increase my chances of having a better rate of return.
    I can recombine later, assuming I get a mated queen back.
    While I was typing the above, I see others have also replied, with good thoughts.
    Regarding the existing queen in TB2 ( the one making queen cells) I would consider splitting her out with enough bees , stores & brood to start a nuc, if she is not already gone.
    My advice to split in advance of swarming draws me a lot of criticism, so it may not be that good of advice, but it is what I usually do. Good Luck CE

    Thanks for your reply Tech. I'm not keen to split TB2 for two reasons: 1. I don't want another hive, the plan was to learn with one TBH and one Flow and take things slowly (ha!) and 2. There's plenty of room to expand it with extra bars, which so far as I can tell seems to work at stopping the swarming until the time comes when I actually will need to split the hive because its full.

    I've decided to take your advice re the queenless swarm in TBnuc - I'll donate the bar from TB2 with the recently capped queen cell and hope that works out.

    And as I need to get outside and do this (conditions are good right now) I've decided for now to leave TB1 another five days to see if they actually do have queen as per Slow Drone's advice.

    If at the end of this I end up with one less hive, I'm actually ok with that, for now. I hope that doesn't make me a bad beekeeper...

    I'll keep you posted as to how this works out. Thanks again.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Problem - two queenless hives, what to do?

    Well, that didn't go quite to plan...

    I found the bar with larvae in two open queen cups in TB2, but it had no other eggs or larvae. I took that intending to add it to TBnuc. (There were other queen cups in the hive, including one capped, and I gave them another empty bar).

    It was a surprise--and relief--to find TBnuc full of eggs (yay!) and see a lovely long golden queen.

    I opened TB1 and found it in much the same state as it was last time--no sign of any brood, larvae or eggs--only there was no drone brood left, just loads of drones and tons of workers. (So much for leaving it for five days)

    Whether I did the right thing time will tell, but I ended up taking a bar of eggs (from TBnuc) and the bar with the queen cups (I'd already taken from TB2) and put both into TB1 in positions 4 and 6. That is one frantic, noisy hive, I hope today's manipulations make a difference...

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Problem - two queenless hives, what to do?

    You're doing fine.
    The biggest thrill is to find a newly mated queen and see the signs of her laying.
    Internet credibility is an oxymoron

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Problem - two queenless hives, what to do?

    I didn't see any answer to his original question, "can I combine two queenless hives?" As far as I know, using the newspaper method you can combine 2 queenless hives.
    Last edited by Cyberman; 03-04-2018 at 06:18 PM.

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