Laying Worker(s) 3 weeks after install?
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  1. #1
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    Default Laying Worker(s) 3 weeks after install?

    Hi,
    I installed two packages on 5/1.
    Removed empty queen cages on 5/7. Things seemed normal.
    Inspected again on ~5/15, 2 weeks in.
    Hive A looked good & normal, single eggs standing up in the cells, and some small larvae. Several frames built out, etc.
    Hive B seemed to be getting a slower start, less comb and generally less action. I found cells that had 1, 2, and in some cases 3 eggs. The eggs were at the bottoms of the cells, so I crossed fingers and hoped it was a new queen figuring things out...

    Inspected again yesterday (5/22, 3 weeks in), and my suspicion that hive B has a problem was confirmed (based on my limited knowledge). This time I found 5-8 eggs per cell, and a lot of capped drone larvae. It seems to me that I have one or more laying workers, and the hive is queenless.

    The questions that I would like to get the wise old beekeepers to weigh in on:
    1. Does my diagnosis of queenlessness & laying worker(s) seem right to you? Any other easy clues to confirm or disprove this?
    2. Does this timing seem weird? Even if the queen (who I saw in the cage during install) was somehow killed or flew off on day 1 of being released from the cage, would workers be laying their own eggs (with capped drone larvae) within 3 weeks? It seems an awfully quick quick progression to me, but I dont know these things.
    3. Can they be saved by ordering and installing a new queen ASAP potentially get them back to viability? If the laying workers are as established as it seems they are, would they likely kill a new queen?
    4. Can they be saved by swapping a frame of uncapped brood from Hive A into hive B and letting them try to make their own new queen? Hive A seems healthy, but they're new and dont exactly have a lot of brood to spare. If its a low probability to work I'd rather not lose 25% of hive A's brood at this early stage.
    5. Does it make sense to try to combine the two hives? Ive read about the newspaper method. Any danger in doing this and screwing up hive A, just for the gain of giving it some additional bees with laying workers and a bunch of drone brood?

    I kept a single hive 3-4 years ago that swarmed and lost its new queen and collapsed with laying workers. That experience is what im remembering when I look at hive B, but that experience could also be confirming my bias.

    Thanks for any thoughts or input or clarifying questions you may have.
    Jroot

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  3. #2
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Laying Worker(s) 3 weeks after install?

    That does seem kind of quick, but it does sound like you have laying workers (LW). I have read of a method to save your foragers. It relies on the fly back split method. Move the LW hive 20 feet or so away and place your good hive in the position the previously occupied by the LW hive. The foragers will fly back leaving the LWs in the other hive for shake out far, far away. I just don't think you have the resources to save them both in 10 frame boxes.
    You could then make a split later on for a five frame nuc to overwinter. I would also feed them both.
    I hope someone else chimes in if I got this wrong or left out a critical detail.

    Alex
    Ten years of Beekeeping before varroa. Started again spring of 2014.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Laying Worker(s) 3 weeks after install?

    I've never had luck turning a LW hive around. Yes it happens quickly sometimes. It happened to me this spring. I made a split with a mated queen at the end of March, by mid-April, I found eggs splattered at the bottom of the cells. I did exactly as AHudd stated and moved a queenright hive to the LW's position and shook the LW hive out a couple hundred feet away. I checked the other day and the hive is doing fine.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Laying Worker(s) 3 weeks after install?

    I have not looked for literature to confirm but my theory is LW progression depends on multiple things including, brood, queen cells etc.

    I had a small swarm turn into LW in about a week. I set the swarm into a new foundation and didnt check for queen. About a week later, no queen and multiple eggs etc. Shook it out.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Laying Worker(s) 3 weeks after install?

    Easiest remedy for a LW hive is to shake all bees about 50 feet away from their original location and remove the original hive body to a different place. The foragers will join a queen right hive.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Laying Worker(s) 3 weeks after install?

    Thanks all for the guidance. I will carry these frames off and shake them out, and place the queen right hive in its location.
    A followup question - what do yall normally do with the frames that have been shaken out? Some are all drone brood and some are mostly nectar, capped honey and pollen. Any reason not to pull the drones out and put those frames in with the queen right hive?

  8. #7
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    Default

    Just put the frames back in any hive. They will cleanup unwanted drone brood.

  9. #8
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    Default

    And don't keep ANYTHING at the old location. The useful foragers will beg their way into a nearby queen right hive automatically.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Laying Worker(s) 3 weeks after install?

    Quote Originally Posted by pjigar View Post
    And don't keep ANYTHING at the old location. The useful foragers will beg their way into a nearby queen right hive automatically.
    My concern about doing a total shake-out is that from what I discern from the OP is that he has only one Q-right hive. Some people say LWs can fly, others say they can't. I do not know. I would hate to hear later on that the LWs overwhelmed his Q-right hive. I have read this can happen, I don't know.

    With only one Q-right hive the shaken out foragers would have to go to that hive, so why make it difficult for them by not leaving them a place to go at their original location. I have waited a couple of days to move swarms to their permanent location. There are always foragers returning to the old location searching for the hive, flying in ever increasingly sized circles and they are not happy.
    While I have never done the fly back method, it makes sense to me for a situation when there is only one Q-right hive remaining. If the LWs remain with the moved box, they can then be disposed of miles away. I'm just not sure they will stay with the original box,and if so, for how long.

    Alex
    Last edited by AHudd; 05-24-2019 at 09:28 AM.
    Ten years of Beekeeping before varroa. Started again spring of 2014.

  11. #10
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    Default

    Good point. I have never had problem with rough LW infecting nearby queen right hive. I have done shake out twice.

    OP,

    To be safe, you can keep some empty frames or drone frames in an empty hive body at the original location but DO NOT move the queenright hive to the original location.
    Last edited by pjigar; 05-24-2019 at 12:33 PM.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Laying Worker(s) 3 weeks after install?

    Quote Originally Posted by pjigar View Post
    Good point. I have never had problem with rough LW infecting nearby queen right hive. I have done shake out twice.

    OP,

    To be sabe, you can keep some empty frames or drone frames in an empty hive body at the original location but DO NOT move the queenright hive to the original location.
    I see what you mean. Moving the Q-right colony probably wouldn't be the best move. Would you then combine the bees in the new box with the Q-right colony at a later date?

    I'm not being argumentative just trying to learn something and not steer someone in the wrong direction.

    Thanks
    Alex
    Ten years of Beekeeping before varroa. Started again spring of 2014.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Laying Worker(s) 3 weeks after install?

    My guess is there were LWs in your package.

    Because you have a thin margin of safety;

    Shake off a frame or two from your QR hive and put them in the LW to start the suppression, they bees will go back as a combine before hatch. If you have the comb from before drop it in the QR to get more eggs and rotate to LW. Scratch off drone brood to let QR clean up.
    Move your LW hive behind you QR for a day or two, then move away. You may or may not get some drifters but it is a slow intro.
    Use the window screen method to slow introduce.

    Assuming they are close and handy. If not use the screen and an empty for spacing.
    It is not true that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.
    They can learn them, they just can't do them.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Laying Worker(s) 3 weeks after install?

    Quote Originally Posted by AHudd View Post
    Would you then combine the bees in the new box with the Q-right colony at a later date?
    No, you let the leftover foragers, laying or not, parish. If you believe in flying LW then I would simply drown them in soap water once I lock them up in a box at night. Heartbreaking but necessary especially if you have only couple of hives. I have several hives so just shake all bees from LW hive and remove the LW hive body including the bottom board from the original location and hope for the best.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Laying Worker(s) 3 weeks after install?

    By the way, there is another method to turn around LW hive. Search for it. But basically you move LW hive on top of a queen right hive separated by double #5 screen board with entrance in opposite direction of the queenright hive. LW will suppress laying if few weeks since they now get open brood smell from queenright hive below. Once you stop seeing the eggs in the LW hive then you do newspaper combine.

    The LW hive looses bee strength too quick to make it worthwhile to save it so I just shake them.

    And another way is to keep adding open brood frame from donor hive into LW hive every week until they turn around but this is very resource and labor intensive method so not even worth trying.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Laying Worker(s) 3 weeks after install?

    I should have thought of the dbl screen board because I made and used Snelgrove boards this year for swarm control.

    Alex
    Ten years of Beekeeping before varroa. Started again spring of 2014.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Laying Worker(s) 3 weeks after install?

    I turned around an LW hive by giving them a frame of open brood, and then about a week or two later, a frame that had a capped queen cell on it. Worked for me but there are never any guarantees. You can get a capped queen cell by moving your queen to a nuc for a week and letting the good hive make a few. Then transfer the cells to the LW hive and reintroduce the queen to the original hive in a cage. Or leave two cells in the original hive and let the queen build you up a third hive which you can use to do a combine if the new queen in the LW hive fails to take. Sounds complicated but it is pretty easy to do.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Laying Worker(s) 3 weeks after install?

    Thanks all for the input on this thread.
    Alex - you are right, I only have the two hives, A & B, and by shaking out B there is only one nearby hive - my remaining one - A. The two hives sit ~6' apart from each other.

    I loaded B on the tailgate, drove ~ 500' away and shook everyone out and saved the weak frames of drone brood and some nectar & pollen. I plan to put those frames into my remaining hive sometime later this week.
    By the time I had shaken everyone out and returned to hive A there was a cloud of confused bess at the original location, and a bit of a beard on hive A. The cloud and beard gradually subsuded over the afternoon & evening. I just checked it at 9:30 and there was a small pile of ~20-30 bees clinging near the top opening of hive A.

    WRT flying LWs, Im obviously no expert on this, but I cant see any reason why they wouldnt fly - they have wings and every bee that I shook and brushed from the LW frames flew off. I cant see why they wouldnt fly unless their ovaries are weighing them down

    Thanks again to everyone for the input. I'll keep a close eye on the remaining hive and see if they continue down the right track after accepting the refugee bees from hive B.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Laying Worker(s) 3 weeks after install?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jroot View Post

    WRT flying LWs, Im obviously no expert on this, but I cant see any reason why they wouldnt fly - they have wings and every bee that I shook and brushed from the LW frames flew off. I cant see why they wouldnt fly unless their ovaries are weighing them down
    That's the theory, but I simply don't know. I have heard it argued both ways.
    I hope it works out. Let us know.

    Alex
    Ten years of Beekeeping before varroa. Started again spring of 2014.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Laying Worker(s) 3 weeks after install?

    Quote Originally Posted by pjigar View Post
    By the way, there is another method to turn around LW hive. Search for it. But basically you move LW hive on top of a queen right hive separated by double #5 screen board with entrance in opposite direction of the queenright hive. LW will suppress laying if few weeks since they now get open brood smell from queenright hive below. Once you stop seeing the eggs in the LW hive then you do newspaper combine.
    Just finished one of these today. I use a screen bottom board between hives, both entrances facing the same direction. I use duct tape to seal any openings between the lower box and the screen bottom board. So the entrance for the top box is 9" above the bottom entrance. Seems to be enough distance that there is no fighting. After a week, 50-60% of the bees in the queenless side will have migrated into the queenrite side, attracted by the brood, and I simply remove the screen. After a day or so, there is little or no confusion left concerning the now missing top box entrance.
    Hindsight is 20/10, not 20/20...
    After the fact, I always know what didn't work.

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Laying Worker(s) 3 weeks after install?

    >1. Does my diagnosis of queenlessness & laying worker(s) seem right to you?

    Yes.

    >2. Does this timing seem weird?

    No. It's broodlessness, not queenlessness that is the root cause and they started out broodless. When you make a hive queenless that has open brood and eggs, it's 9 days before that brood is capped. When you start with a package they are already broodless.

    http://bushfarms.com/beeslayingworkers.htm
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

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