Queen Bee dead in Winter
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2019
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    North Carolina
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    Default Queen Bee dead in Winter

    Hi All, I have a hive that just lost its queen. It is a very strong hive- they are doing great with the huge exception of having just lost their queen. I figure I cannot re-queen in the winter b/c no one is selling queens now I assume. I have one weaker hive that still has their queen.. should I just join the 2? Should I wait it out until late winter when I can purchase a queen? I figure I will have laying workers soon enough, but figure I could just drop in a frame of brood to fix that in the spring... but not sure if waiting around with laying workers would cause issues other than the obvious slowly declining population. However, I figure it would be best to hear from other people who know more before I make any decisions.

    Thanks in advance.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
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    England, UK
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    Default Re: Queen Bee dead in Winter

    Your first post - so a warm welcome to BeeSource ...

    A couple of questions to clarify the situation: whereabouts in the northern hemisphere are you located ? And - seeing as it's more-or-less mid-Winter right now, on what basis are you concluding that the Queen is dead/ missing ?
    'best,
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  4. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Algoma District Northern Ontario, Canada
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    Default Re: Queen Bee dead in Winter

    Curing a laying worker situation may take three donations of brood frames a week apart. Not as quick, easy or guaranteed as you suggest.
    Frank

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
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    Aylett, Virginia
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    Default Re: Queen Bee dead in Winter

    Hi there Drone74, welcome to Beesource. LJ's question is one I would be asking. Unless you know you killed her, what leads you to believe she is dead? I would not combine. As long as it is winter, the hive should not go LW. Please list your location. Here in Richmond , VA, I can expect to start seeing small amounts of brood in a few weeks. Enough that on a warm day, I could steal some eggs if forced to do so. If the hive does go laying worker, providing frames of open brood, even multiple times, is no sure bet. Maybe 50/50 at best.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2019
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    North Carolina
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    Default Re: Queen Bee dead in Winter

    I live in North Carolina, US.

    For whatever reason, the bees were balling her- I found them out on the ground right next to the hive.... I had to run off to another commitment right before I discovered this, so I was not sure what to do, so for better or worse (assuming worse), I put her back in the hive. She might be alive, but it has been too cold to check the last couple days, so I am assuming the worst. I did not find her body outside the hive, so maybe she is not dead, but seeing that she was getting balled, I figure they were going to kill her. I was hoping I was wrong, but I didn't have much time to make a decision.

    I have dealt with laying workers before, but I realize that first time might have gone more smoothly than it might go in other cases.

    Thanks for the welcomes

  7. #6
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    Jul 2010
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    Default Re: Queen Bee dead in Winter

    I'm with the others it is hard to diagnose queenlessness during broodless times.

    If they were balling her outside and you ran her in with some smoke she may still be alive, but there are a number of scenarios she may not even be from that hive, or there may be more than one queen.

    Only sure way to test the waters is put some eggs in and see if they make queen cells.

    If you definately want a queen, some breeders end up with some spare in fall and may bank them or have in mini nucs or similar, if you ask around you may find someone willing to supply.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  8. #7
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    Apr 2017
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    Aylett, Virginia
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    Default Re: Queen Bee dead in Winter

    Around the middle of January you may be able to test the waters and add the small brood patch that should be on one of your frames in another hive. Just be sure to shake off all the bees. Don't want to accidentally move a queen into a hive that already has one! I have never tried it this early and of course the queen won't get mated, but at least you will know your status.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2019
    Location
    North Carolina
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    Default Re: Queen Bee dead in Winter

    Thanks for your advice, guys. It makes sense to drop a frame of eggs/brood in there, so I think I will try that route. If there are any other thoughts on this matter, please share.

    Oh yeah, so you were also saying that in winter they won't go laying worker? That is good to know. I guess that makes sense too b/c they are not expecting the smell/pheromone from the open brood at this time ..?

  10. #9
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    Aug 2014
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    Default Re: Queen Bee dead in Winter

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    If you definately want a queen, some breeders end up with some spare in fall and may bank them or have in mini nucs or similar, if you ask around you may find someone willing to supply.
    I think that's something well worth considering - also the local beekeeping club ? I currently have half a dozen spare queens surplus to immediate requirements which are being over-wintered in nucs, and I certainly won't be the only sideliner doing this sort of thing ...
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  11. #10
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    Jul 2010
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    Default Re: Queen Bee dead in Winter

    Quote Originally Posted by drone74 View Post
    Thanks for your advice, guys. It makes sense to drop a frame of eggs/brood in there, so I think I will try that route. If there are any other thoughts on this matter, please share.
    Just, as per others, if they do build queen cells, don't let them hatch. It won't mate and could be trouble later.

    Quote Originally Posted by drone74 View Post
    Oh yeah, so you were also saying that in winter they won't go laying worker? That is good to know. I guess that makes sense too b/c they are not expecting the smell/pheromone from the open brood at this time ..?
    But early spring they may well. A good proportion of hives that go queenless in winter go laying worker by normal requeening time in spring.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2019
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    North Carolina
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    Default Re: Queen Bee dead in Winter

    So I should find out if they have a queen around mid-January by testing with some brood and re-queen with mated queen if possible immediately after the test for best results sounds like what you all are saying.

    Just curious, what wrong might happen if a queen hatched now (re:"It won't mate and could be trouble later.") ? Is it that it might never attempt to mate come springtime?

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Queen Bee dead in Winter

    Her window to mate is up to 21 days after emergence. Since there will be no drones for her to mate with, she will become a drone layer. You would have to hunt her down and kill her to be able to install a mated queen a day or two later. So, give the bees a few eggs and check back in about 8 days to see if they made queen cells. If so, tear them down and start looking for a mated queen with a local or southern breeder/sideliner.

    It is always a good idea to have a nuc for every two or three hives you have going into winter. Like LJ, I am overwintering six nucs in addition to around 18 hives at the moment. The queens I don't need myself will get sold off with their respective nuc at the end of March.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  14. #13
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    Dec 2019
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    North Carolina
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    Default Re: Queen Bee dead in Winter

    Huh, so once a drone layer there is no going back; she just settles into her routine of laying. I was not aware of that window to mate although the number 21 looks familiar... maybe I knew but just forgot Thanks for the info. I will start checking around to see if people have queens just in case. Thanks everyone for the help and info!

  15. #14
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    Oct 2019
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    Wakefield, Rhode Island, USA
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    Default Re: Queen Bee dead in Winter

    Some backup data as I was just reading about Queen Maturation. It takes 6 to 10 days after emergence for a queen to be ready to mate ( apparently influenced somewhat by age of workers). 20C ( 68F) and higher temperatures are needed for flight and mating along with some sun and mature drones. Queens can mate 3 to 4 weeks after emerging. Depending on race the queens begin producing eggs 30 to 40 days after emergence ( thus preventing mating??). Thus a drone laying queen results when not mated. It is recommended to replace a queen if she has not mated by 3 weeks after emergence ( 37 days) to avoid drone laying queens.

    Drone laying workers show up, ovipositing, 40 days after loss of a queen. I assume this includes the 14 -16 days for brood development - true? If a colony generated queen mates and returns, 4 to 6 days after drone laying worker ovipositing begins, what happens? Civil War? Timing of when a mated queen is installed is also important if the time delay is too long. I think I need to reread with a different viewpoint. Easy way out is to install brood frames when in doubt and change the timetable for for drone layers - right or maybe? Maybe is for a drone laying queen?

    The more one learns about honey bees the more complicated it gets. What if flow diagrams?

  16. #15
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    Jan 2015
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    Default Re: Queen Bee dead in Winter

    Quote Originally Posted by drone74 View Post
    Huh, so once a drone layer there is no going back;
    That is incorrect. Look for threads about a Screen Combine by Flower Planter on here. I've done it with success. I don't think you need to worry about a combine right now, just get them through winter alive then worry about the queen situation in early spring when you are sure what the situation is.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Queen Bee dead in Winter

    If you decide you do need a queen, then try
    https://www.ohbees.com/products/ohb-italian-queens

    as I think they will be able to fix you up. They are a major breeder here in Northern CA and also have operations in Hawaii. They currently show Italian queens available on January 6th and onward.
    Live real time bee chat, most evenings...
    https://www.rumbletalk.com/client/chat.php?4%40HY_hmJ

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Queen Bee dead in Winter

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve in PA View Post
    That is incorrect. Look for threads about a Screen Combine by Flower Planter on here. I've done it with success. I don't think you need to worry about a combine right now, just get them through winter alive then worry about the queen situation in early spring when you are sure what the situation is.
    I am guessing he meant that once a queen has become a drone layer due to failing to mate, that, that window is forever closed. I believe it has been done deliberately to produce oodles of drones though!

    I had a colony come out of winter queenless this past season. I kept feeding in brood comb from another hive. They started cells but since there were no drones yet any resulting queens would be less than worthless. I think I tore down cells twice but let one emerge from the third donated frame. A queen finally emerged June 10. She did lay but I suspected she was not really royally mated as drones were still quite scarce so I replace her later.

    It was an exercise just to see if I could do it but really not practical. I should have combined but I did no know at that point if I was entirely over European foulbrood. Combining a weak hive with another can be very bad business sometimes.
    Frank

  19. #18
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    Feb 2012
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    Default Re: Queen Bee dead in Winter

    Quote Originally Posted by drone74 View Post
    For whatever reason, the bees were balling her- I found them out on the ground right next to the hive....
    I doubt you are queen less in December based upon that, it would be very unusual for a colony to kick out & ball there only queen. More likely, they had two queens going into Winter & one was being removed. Oldtimer pointed this out & some other scenarios.
    Please excuse me, I am now free to go manage & treat ;)
    my ladies the best way I know how.

  20. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2019
    Location
    North Carolina
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    8

    Default Re: Queen Bee dead in Winter

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Holcombe View Post
    The more one learns about honey bees the more complicated it gets.
    You aren't kidding!

    Thanks to everyone for the replies and ideas. I will have to make sure that there is no queen and then re-queen if none exists.

  21. #20
    Join Date
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Queen Bee dead in Winter

    it won't be too many more weeks before the early tree pollens start coming in on the exceptionally warm days.

    if your supposedly queenright hive has a lot of pollen coming in and your suspected queenless hive does not then that is sometimes a clue there is no queen present.

    another clue would be seeing robbing of the suspected queenless hive.

    i personally would not bother with inspections until the first tree pollens start coming in, which is typically when the first rounds of post-solstice brood are reared.

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