Yeah, this is the direction I'm leaning too. As bees naturally die off over winter, decreasing cluster size, another queen might not be tolerated as it was back in September, and it is highly unlikely that the colony would kill off its only Mama.
It is December after all, just 3 days passed the solstice and even Virginia still has plenty of winter left before Spring arrives, no?
I'm thinking in North Carolina, your colonies may never go entirely broodless. Even in Nova Scotia here they are starting to rear brood in January.
I would wait a week or so for a nice day and look for uncapped brood. If there isn't any, you may not have a queen, or you may have a failing queen.
At that point you can always combine them and make a good strong split in the Spring. The worst that can happen is they fight it out.
Plan B: combine them with newspaper, plus a queen excluder. Once you see drones, move some eggs up and they should make a new queen in the top box.
I want bees that make up for my mistakes.
Location is key to finding a solution here. I still have lots of brood and a decent drone population in North Florida.
To produce a queen in the spring you're going to need a population of mature drones which takes about 45 days from the egg. Also, queens typically don't fly and mate below 68 degrees. Without these two conditions you will not get a well-mated queen in the spring . I have successfully used QMP strips (available from suppliers) as a substitute for the queen for short periods of time (2weeks). This may be worth trying. You could also try placing the weaker colony on top of the suspected queenless colony with a single screen (#10 mesh) between the two, and create an upper entrance above facing the opposite direction. This would allow the queen pheromones to be transferred by contact between the workers but would not let them access the queen physically and possibly kill her (if the other queen was still present below). The heat rising off of the larger colony (below) would help the weaker colony (above) survive through the winter. They can be permanently combined in the spring, if required, but if both queens are present and healthy, they can be separated again. I regularly overwinter nucs on top of full colonies using this method.
here in Hampton Roads part of Virginia, the queens have picked back up again. Just did an inspection on my long langstroth. The queen has about 5 frames laid with eggs at the top. So far, our January is looking pretty mild, although that always tends to change. But I am seeing pollen being brought in as well as uncapped nectar, so they are finding some natural food somewhere. Depending on what part of NC the OP is in, the queens should be starting a patch or two of brood now.
Ruth, that is good to know. I have not pulled frames since October. If you are seeing eggs and brood already, I need to get the pollen patties on this weekend. Ah, nothing like 60° weather to make one forget it is winter.
Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.
I wouldn't normally go in mine just yet, but have a mentee that wasn't sure if her bees went into winter with an unmated queen, as she couldn't see eggs. I told her mine normally pick up after the winter solstice, and this gal was right on target. Didn't see any open brood, only frames and frames of eggs.
I was able to go into the hive today and found that the strong hive had their queen which means I put the queen that was getting balled into the wrong hive.. I am currently looking for a queen for the other hive (checked and no brood or eggs etc)- will check locally first and then check the links in this post . Ug.... at least the strong hive will remain strong...
The strong hive has been gathering a lot of nectar.. I suppose it has been warm, but I am wondering where they are getting nectar so early? They are also bringing in a good amount of pollen and have a good amount of brood. I am hoping they don't build up too quickly and then get crushed by a quick freeze...
Thanks for everyone's help and responses.
What about combining them. You may find a queen local. I'd not trust shipping one in at the start of winter. Also, feed them well in early spring, and check on what they have now. If brooding, they will burn some resources up fast.
I have had virgin queens balled by their own colony when I split one year in Spring during March and the splits were so small they were not able to forage in the cooler Spring weather. While the booming colonies were brooding much from the nectar, at the same time the small splits (around 3 frames total each split) seemed were not getting any nectar and was as if they were in a dearth of nectar even though it was Spring. The little splits went queenless, and one queen I saw was outside of the hive still alive but torn up by the workers (I saw this queen days before in the nucleus hive). The small splits wound up queenless. I have this same problem during the summer dearth here in North Carolina. The bees will ball the queen during the summer dearth every time if the split was a large and strong colony, though small splits mate their queens consistently even during the summer dearth, as long as you can keep them alive in the stressful time of the hot summer dearth (I feed sugar syrup if splitting in the dearth).
Welcome to this forum!
Nathaniel Long ncWinterHoney.weebly.com