Queenless in Sept
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    Philadelphia, PA
    Posts
    13

    Default Queenless in Sept

    One of my top bar hives was looking a little light on activity today. Upon checking I found an ok population but no brood and five or six queen cells in the middle of the hive. There are a few capped drone cells and a few open larva in the entire hive. I *think* they have enough capped honey/nectar to make it through the winter. I last checked July 27th and there was lots of worker and drone brood.

    So my questions - any clues to what happened? Did I miss a swarm sign? Or did the queen just die? She had a rough start earlier this year - are they just done with her? I’m wondering if there is something I missed that I could learn from.

    Part two - seeing that it’s early September, is there something I should do while the new queen is in process?

    Thank you!

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    Geauga, Ohio
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    409

    Default Re: Queenless in Sept

    Hello! I suggest re-posting to the top bar page. If you poke around, you'll find it.

    Sounds like you missed signs of the hive preparing to swarm, which is easy to have happen. It's not easy to see a drop in the numbers going in and out unless you were keeping good track. Sometimes you can tell that fewer bars are covered, or they are less densely covered.

    The problem with a hive that swarmed now is twofold. 1) The virgin queen might not make it back, leaving the hive up a creek w/o a paddle. Can you split into 2 "nucs", with one side being the original entrance, with any larvae (still need fed, so expensive) and 2-3 QCs max, and put a bee-tight divider (or the feeder divider with a towel at the bottom to be bee-tight) with at least 2 bars of stores, 2 bars of capped brood, and 2-3 QCs. Destroy any more than that - more can lead to afterswarming.

    The second problem is that the bees being born right now need to become winter bees. So minimal brood rearing, no foraging - or else their lifespan will be shortened. If the bees who are 0-2 weeks old start foraging early, and have to take care of younger sisters, it's not good.

    The very best choice is to buy a queen. I could not find one, so I am hoping for a miracle. I split into 4 mating nucs (for 2 hives that swarmed), and I am hoping for a miracle. The weather is supposed to turn right after the queens go out to mate (she spends 8d in the capped QC, about 4 d hardening, 2 d mating potentially, then 2-3 d getting reading to lay).

    As far as size/stores for winter, a rule of thumb that I have found to work for our variable-sized brood nest top bars is that for every bar covered with bees in Oct (which will be fewer than now, like half sometimes), there needs to be that many bars extra with stores. So if you have 12 bars covered with bees now, you'll probably find they are down to 6 by mid Oct, when they cluster in the cold and after many have finished their lifespan. If you have 12 bars total with stores, they will make it.

    I have extra combs from last year, so as soon as I see who got mated, I will load them up with empty or honey-filled comb, and feed until the outside temps are hitting lows in the 50s. Then the syrup is too cold to consume anymore. It's worked before.

    I wish I could tell you the magic solution so that top bars don't swarm - I don't have one. I've been struggling with it myself this year (3rd yr with top bars). The ingredients for a swarm are 1) nectar flow, 2) lots of rapidly maturing nurse bees, and 3) a 2 yr old queen, or one with the genetics to have a low threshold to swarm.

    I am assuming these queens have "swarmy" genetics, and I will be requeening with queens who didn't swarm this year, and these Sept swarm daughters are NOT ALLOWED to have any drone comb come spring. Might make a difference....

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
    Posts
    10,071

    Default Re: Queenless in Sept

    (thread moved to top bar hive forum)
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    Philadelphia, PA
    Posts
    13

    Default

    @squarepeg thanks for moving!

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    Philadelphia, PA
    Posts
    13

    Default

    Thanks @trishbookworm for all the insight! It makes sense that I missed the signs of a swarm - I’ll have to be more diligent about my summer checks next year. Thanks for the list of options and good basis for judging how much honey they’ll need. I think they’ll have enough... if they can keep their population up!

    I’m not sure if the nuc idea will work - I only see two fairly large larva and then the queens. There’s no smaller brood from what I can see. I think they may be out of luck! Fingers crossed for that miracle!! 🙂

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Isle of Wight, VA
    Posts
    2,751

    Default Re: Queenless in Sept

    The trick to not having a topbar hive swarm is don't let the brood nest get crowded (and have a big enough box to start with. 36" is not big enough). In the spring, you should be opening up the brood nest with first, drawn but empty comb. Then in mid spring with empty bars in the brood nest between drawn bars. You have to do this carefully based on the weather forecast so they don't get chilled, but this brood nest expansion continues into June. Sometimes the hive gets so full that you have to move the uncapped nectar over to another hive to "finish". For some of my 17 topbar hives, I remove the capped brood to make my splits in mid-spring. This helps relieve the crowding in the hive.

    And if you are looking for a mated queen, as of 9/4/18, wildflowermeadows.com has queens available to ship Sept 11. I've ordered from them in past years and their queens are fine.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    Philadelphia, PA
    Posts
    13

    Default

    @ruthiesbees - thank you so much! That’s really helpful info for next year. I tried that a bit but it was too little too late but you’ve laid it out well! I’ll check about the mated queen.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Greenville, NC, USA
    Posts
    163

    Default Re: Queenless in Sept

    I have 1 hybrid long hive in my yard to play with and I mentor another beek who has 3. I've found that you can really grow bees quick and run out of room when a flow is on. ruthie is correct, you need at least a 48" box and if it starts getting crowded you HAVE to move something. If the queen runs out of space to lay she will swarm. This "removing" frames might be where you start a nuc and use it down the road as a resource producer. Let them make a queen in the nuc and you can use this in case you lose a queen in winter. In any case you PREVENT the swarm. If you end up in spring not needing the nuc you can sell it.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    Philadelphia, PA
    Posts
    13

    Default Re: Queenless in Sept

    That's a great suggestion! I'm going to try that this year. Thank you!

    Quote Originally Posted by Murdock View Post
    I have 1 hybrid long hive in my yard to play with and I mentor another beek who has 3. I've found that you can really grow bees quick and run out of room when a flow is on. ruthie is correct, you need at least a 48" box and if it starts getting crowded you HAVE to move something. If the queen runs out of space to lay she will swarm. This "removing" frames might be where you start a nuc and use it down the road as a resource producer. Let them make a queen in the nuc and you can use this in case you lose a queen in winter. In any case you PREVENT the swarm. If you end up in spring not needing the nuc you can sell it.

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    Location
    England, UK
    Posts
    1,287

    Default Re: Queenless in Sept

    Quote Originally Posted by Murdock View Post
    ruthie is correct, you need at least a 48" box ...
    It's not just a question of length - but depth and width also - i.e. the amount of comb area within a hive. I have several hives which are as short as 24" - but have very deep combs. And I haven't seen a swarm here in years ...
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

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