I have a hive that's got me stumped, and if someone could provide some information, it would really be appreciated. I captured a fairly large swarm two weeks ago. Since it seemed too large for a nuc, we went ahead and placed them in an empty deep and left it alone and filled with bees. This is what we have done with our other swarms with no issues so far, and I've kept an eye to make sure there were bees coming and going from the entrance with no problems observed.
I cracked it open this weekend to check their progress, 2 weeks after capture, and the bees were still there but the frames were still empty, with only the slightest hint of wax beginning in the corners of two frames. I looked for the queen but did not see her, so we placed a full frame of honey and brood from our strongest hive in the deep in case they needed to requeen.
Yesterday I noticed a fairly large swarm in a bush near the new hive that we captured and put in a nuc. On opening the deep that had held the swarm, I saw that there were only about a third or less of the bees from before, with plenty still coming back to the hive as it was in the evening. The frame of brood and honey had had some wax added to it.
My current thought is that the hive absconded, 2 weeks after capture, leaving quite a few stragglers behind, or split before there was a new queen to replace the old one, but neither theory makes much sense. We had had an open feeder near the hive that they didn't show much interest in, and are in the middle of a flow- our strong hive that is nearby is currently filling it's supers, so I don't think they were starving. It did get hit with a sprinkler for a few minutes in the evening, but that never seemed to bother our other new hive that had been captured a few weeks before this one. Does anyone have any idea what went wrong with this hive, and what the best course of action would be now?
Thanks! I hadn't considered a virgin queen also in there, because I thought that was pretty rare.
The swarm was at the very base of a bush, and was difficult to extract, so I was surprised I managed to get the one queen, much less two, but I will take a second look and see if there is a queen among the bees left behind.
Multiple queens in a swarm is not uncommon. I had 3 in one before.
As far as some insight into the absconde, it seems you are using foundationless frames from your post. If so, I have experienced an absconde in my apiary similar to this scenario. Turns out that the cluster of bees (20k or so) could not regulate their temp comfortably on a warm-hot day and they left.
Since then, I hive them on drawn comb or at the very least rite cell foundation. This allows them to "uncluster" and spread out on the frames to cool themselves adequately. I haven't had one leave since. Hope this helps.