Weak hive and strong hive - time for a nuc?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2019
    Location
    Southeastern Pennsylvania
    Posts
    2

    Default Weak hive and strong hive - time for a nuc?

    Good afternoon all - I am a first year beekeeper from Southeastern Pennsylvania (Delco) and would love some advice from the experts out here!

    I started with two packages this April and they did both well initially. After about 4 weeks I noted the egg and larva production in one hive -my weak hive from here on- to drop, and as I saw less and less capped brood and some backfilling I decided to get a new (marked) mated queen and put the queen cage in the hive 9 days ago. Today I looked for the first time: Candy plug gone, queen out - but the queen I find in the hive is not marked. Also I see still no eggs and no larva. My best guess is that I missed a virgin queen or an advanced queen cell somewhere, and that the virgin queen won the royal battle. Or - could the marking have been cleaned off and she is the mated queen I introduced but she has no room yet as they are just about to clean out all the backfilled combs?

    My other hive -the strong hive from here on- has been amazing. Queen is a machine, so much so that I had to put a third medium box (I only use mediums) on top 2 weeks ago. Did not check last week as I wanted to give the new queen some peace (and no smoke). Anyway - today I looked and the third medium super which I added 2 weeks ago is completely full - all 8 frames! Lots of honey and pollen but in the middle also lots of capped and uncapped brood. This queen is a machine! Alas - I will lose her soon! I saw lots and lots of queen cells at the bottom row of a couple of frames even in the third = most recent box. I did not squish them as I do not think I can prevent a swarm at this point - they are too far along. And maybe too vibrant regardless of what I do. Or should I?

    Now, my question for you: I have an empty nuc box. Maybe I transfer a couple of frames with lots of queen cells into that one and attempt a third hive? Or should I move some frames from the strong hive into the weak one, squishing all the queen cells and "thinning out" my weak hive with new frames every other? It is June in Zone7a here so temperaturewise I would think they are ok.

    Any ideas are welcome!

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Aylett, Virginia
    Posts
    3,409

    Default Re: Weak hive and strong hive - time for a nuc?

    This is my opinion. I would do a combination of both. Move the "machine queen" to the nuc with a frame of capped brood and place it where the existing hive is now. Put in four frames of foundation or three foundation and one drawn comb and you have a flyback split. Take a frame with swarm cells and put it in the weak hive along with another frame of capped brood. Finally, squish all but two of the remaining swarm cells in the original hive and move it to another stand at least 5 feet away from the original location. These manipulations should stop the swarm, strengthen the weak hive, and give you a third hive with the good queen. Be prepared to hive that nuc within a few weeks as it should really take off. Be sure to feed the nuc and the weak hive, the parent hive should be fine with their reserved stores. Use an internal feeder and maybe put robbing screens on the nuc and weak hive.

    When you introduced the new queen, you did locate and dispatch the old one, right? If not, you will need to find her and put her in a cage or give her an alcohol bath.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Location
    Rutland County, Vermont,USA
    Posts
    2,062

    Default Re: Weak hive and strong hive - time for a nuc?

    Not an expert but I think your "weak" hive swarmed and your purchased queen was killed. The queen may just need some time to start laying. Your "strong" hive is not really that strong at only 3 mediums, they are crowded. I would guess that you should have added more boxes sooner. But now with capped QC, your best option may be to make a nuc, but they may be determined to swarm not matter what. I would remove all but 3 queen cells. I think I would probably do that and use the nuc to build up both hives and eventually do a combine before winter unless they build up nicely. Add another box to the strong hive now. Good luck. J

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Aylett, Virginia
    Posts
    3,409

    Default Re: Weak hive and strong hive - time for a nuc?

    Fivej is right, if your hive did swarm and the queen you saw is a virgin that killed your marked queen, she would probably not be laying yet. Look carefully for an emerged swarm cell before doing anything with that queen. In any case, adding brood and a frame with cells should not hurt. The bees will tear down the cells if they are not needed.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2019
    Location
    Southeastern Pennsylvania
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: Weak hive and strong hive - time for a nuc?

    Thanks so much Fivej and JW. So much to learn!
    I spoke to a neighbor and second year beekeeper -which makes him tenfold more experienced than I am- and he told me that the mated queen he bought from the same guy I did lost her marking as the workers cleaned it off. So his theory was that the queen without marking I see is the new mated queen, and the reason she is not laying is that there was no space. I did notice that the bees have been cleaning out all those backfilled cells nicely - which should mean that I see eggs and larva soon, if that one is mated indeed.

    His rec was this - sounded logical to me which is why I did just that: As I have a strong hive and a weak hive, with queens in both, I did not do a nuc but rather took out a total of 6 frames from my strong hive -after the machine queen was safely located- and sugarwater drenched them and put them in my weak hive. Lots of brood on those. My strong hive I alternated empty frames and existing frames in bottom 3 boxes (now minus 6 full frames) and added a 4th box.
    And of course I squished all the queen cells.

    Not sure if this was the best thing to do - but I do not care for a third hive in my first year. Two is plenty! Doing this for fun more so than for the honey...

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Aylett, Virginia
    Posts
    3,409

    Default Re: Weak hive and strong hive - time for a nuc?

    Would not have thought the paint would come off that fast. Nine days and I bet you paid extra to have her marked. You have given the weak hive a boost with numbers and reduced the crowding in the strong hive. Good, and good. Generally though, once the bees make swarm cells, there is not much you can do to prevent the swarm that does not involve removing the queen from the hive. Keeping my fingers crossed for you. If they do swarm, you will need to remove some of the extra space for awhile.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

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