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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
As most people are aware, there are basically 3 established ways of dealing with Laying Workers:

1. Shaking out. This appears to work ok if the colony has only recently turned L/W. However, I can now confirm what others have said - that with a chronic L/W colony, the lion's share of the bees will simply return home.

2. With the above in mind - shaking-out with removal of the hive. This renders the bees homeless, so they will then have to beg admission into adjacent hives. Any bee presenting as a Queen (L/W, D/L) will be denied entry.

3. Providing the colony with frames of open brood for 2 weeks or more.


Some two months ago I tried DR virgin introduction into a batch of nucs which resulted in about a 50% success rate, which eventually left me with a number of nuc-sized L/W colonies in addition to 2 full-sized colonies which came out of winter as L/W, and which I allowed to remain in that state for experimentation.

I tried combining the first of these full-sized colonies by placing it over a strong queenright colony with wire mesh in-between the boxes. After 2 weeks the L/W colony was inspected only to find that many eggs were present, as well as numerous open and capped worker-drone cells. Despite this, the mesh was removed and subsequent inspections have confirmed that the combined colony has remained queenright.

A different approach was chosen for the second full-sized L/W colony. On the basis that foreign queens (or any bee resembling a foreign queen) will be instantly killed whenever they're detected by workers, this colony was placed over another powerful queenright colony (on 22 deep frames) with a Q/X between them.
Because the weather closed in, I was unable to inspect the results of this procedure for 8 days. But upon inspection of the 11-frame L/W box, no eggs were seen, (so presumably the L/W's had been killed), and the contents of both open and capped worker-drone cells had been destroyed and the cells cleaned-out.
Following this, two 5-frame L/W nucleus colonies were placed over the same full-sized queenright colony, and inspected after 5 days - with exactly the same result.
Two more 5-frame L/W nucleus colonies had been placed over a third full-sized queenright colony at the same time, but the results there were slightly different, in that capped worker-drone cells had remained intact, whereas eggs and open worker-drone cells had been destroyed - so it appears possible that there may be some genetic response-variation involved, as the two queenright colonies involved were of different strains.

This procedure was further repeated (using the same queenright colonies with identical results) until I ran out of L/W colonies - the last pair were inspected, removed, and combined this morning.

In all cases there was a significant reduction in the number of bees within the L/W colony box, however there appears to be no obvious way of knowing whether this is due to the number of bees killed, or whether this was simply due to bees in that box having swelled the ranks of the queenright section - for during these crude 'experiments' no attempt was made to assess the populations of the queenright colonies, before and after each procedure.
LJ
 

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Very interesting LJ. Thanks for sharing your experiment with us. For me, the most interesting aspect is the queenright bees destroying the capped drone cells. They were taking no prisoners. J
 

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LJ,

Regarding #2 - "With the above in mind - shaking-out with removal of the hive. This renders the bees homeless, so they will then have to beg admission into adjacent hives. Any bee presenting as a Queen (L/W, D/L) will be denied entry."

I can understand that might be the case if a queenright colony was nearby, but will this same behavior take place with a recent split?

Last month I had a LW colony, but did not shake them and remove the hive because I was concerned that the LWs might find their way into the split. Is it possible that a colony in a queenless situation might accept LWs or DL?

Kevin
 

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Thanks for sharing! So if I understand it right, the queenright side has to be significantly (in your case >x2) stronger than the L/W colony, correct? It would be interesting to know if significant losses occurred on both sides or just on L/W side. I assume you had no way to observe the dead bees being carried out during the first hours/days?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Hi dekster - I wouldn't say "has to be stronger" - but I think it's a good idea. For myself, I wasn't taking any chances. FWIW - the objective of this exercise wasn't to further the frontiers of science (pause for laughter ...) but simply to get the apiary back into some form of order. I'd made-up a large number of nucs (well - large for me) as a one-off hit: all the nucs I'd need for the season in one go. And having watched the virgins walk in unmolested, I was beginning to feel pretty smug and pleased with myself - and then things started to turn pear-shaped ...
Many of the (now queenless) nucs were in 6-frame boxes with integral floors, and so I needed to get them into regular 5-frame nuc boxes. I have two sorts - those with their own entrances, and those without. And yes, it was only the latter I had available.

So I made-up four shims, thusly:



which fitted underneath the nuc boxes I had available for the job. The relatively large slots gave a good view of the wide rims of the Q/X's which were underneath them - and yes, I observed lots of fighting on the rims of those Q/X's - presumably the antagonists were workers from the queenright boxes below.
With 20/20 hindsight (always a handy thing) - did I really need to provide entrances to those boxes ? Dunno, but I was operating on automatic pilot, without too much critical thought involved - it was very much a "suck it and see" operation.


Kevinf: Is it possible that a colony in a queenless situation might accept LWs or DL?
I would think that there could well be a very strong possibility of that happening. As far as those colonies would be concerned a D/L is a perfectly good queen, and a L/W passes herself off very effectively as a queen (isn't that the whole problem with them ?), and so yes - my money would be on either of those being accepted.


Fivej: (destroying capped worker-drone cells) Absolutely - I was gob-smacked when I saw that. At one point I'd been pulling frames containing capped worker-drone cells and putting them in the freezer overnight, as an alternative to giving them the hive-tool treatment. It was only when I replaced one batch and went to pull another that I noticed this. Thinking I might have made a mistake, I was then very careful to note when capped as well as uncapped and eggs were present. I found it quite extraordinary - after 5 days or so - to find combs restored to their pristine condition. But only one colony did that - the other was more 'tolerant' of capped cells.
LJ
 

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little_john:

Glad you posted this. I was heading out this weekend to take care of a couple of LW colonies. My plan was to put a Snelgrove board over a QR colony and move the LW colony (located beside the QR colony) on top of the Snelgrove board. I was going to route the LW colony out of the back of the Snelgrove board for a few days, then divert them into the QR colony.

After reading your method, I think I like using the QE much better. I guess I just didn't think it would work, or that I would be taking a big risk in the LW killing my queen.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I think I like using the QE much better. I guess I just didn't think it would work, or that I would be taking a big risk in the LW killing my queen.
Let's hope that doesn't happen - else my name will be mud. :)

It's still early days with this - ideally it really needs other people to try it, and under different conditions etc. - so it'll be good (I hope) to hear how you get on.

To expand a little - the two queenright colonies I picked as L/W-killer colonies had a fair bit of attitude and were powerful by UK standards, being double-deep stacks (22 frames) - that probably doesn't sound much to you guys with your monster hives, but over here those are BIG colonies. I had planned to re-queen both of them, but then decided to use them in 'L/W-killer role' instead, and to re-queen them afterwards.

The L/W colonies were all either small (nuc-sized) or demoralised and starting to dwindle a little due to the presence of so many mini-drones. I don't know how important that difference in strength and dynamic health is. With a really BIG L/W colony, it might pay to divide it in half, perhaps ? Lots of unknowns still to be figured out ...

Best of luck and keep us posted on results. :)
LJ
 

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LJ, my prefered method now is to remove the frames containing the capped drone brood and insert a frame of brood with a capped queen cell on it. I do not have numbers because I just do it as it occurs. But, I have done several this year and think they all worked. I previously had had only so so results with adding a frame brood only and have never combined a LW hive with another hive. Not for a lack of desiring to so, but the nucs I had intended to combine ended up robbed out before I managed to try it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
LJ, my prefered method now is to remove the frames containing the capped drone brood and insert a frame of brood with a capped queen cell on it.
Thanks - that's well-worth knowing. It would be very useful to have several proven options to call upon whenever the L/W problem arises. For me, these big numbers of L/W colonies was a most unusual event - I normally only have the odd colony go L/W, and by the time it's discovered it's more than likely dwindled down to a few hundred bees, and wax-moths have already moved in - so there's usually nothing much worth saving then, except perhaps a few stores combs. Luckily all my hives have anti-robbing screens (or their equivalent) in place, so any remaining stores tend to survive reasonably ok. But they always get a couple of days in the freezer - just to make sure.

I've tried Michael Bush's method of frame after frame of open brood, but without success - also I'm reluctant to throw substantial amounts of resources at a 'dodgy' colony. Much better to use those resources to start-up a new one from scratch, imo. But - one frame of brood with a ripe q/cell sounds very do-able. Does it matter whether the brood is capped or not ?
LJ
 

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By the time I get a capped qc, the frame is mixed capped and older open larvae, unless it is from swarm prep. Then there tends to be some younger larvae as well. I think based on MBs method, that there has to be open brood pheromone for it to work. I will continue to play with this method and maybe even take notes.
 

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I used to try to redeem a LW colony with adding frames of brood but decided it's simpler just to do a newspaper combine.
If the LW colony is too big,I will split the boxes and use 2 receiver colonies.After 2 weeks,usually have sealed workerbrood in LW box and one can split if desired.I got tired of futzing around.
 

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Some colonies just refuse to get queenright. I had one of those this year. I gave them brood, I gave them queen cells, I gave them virgins, I gave them mated queens. They were mostly queenless from May until July (kept giving them brood). Finally they accepted a queen. This was a booming hive in May when I stole their queen for another colony. As Winnie the Pooh says, "You never can tell with bees". All of these methods usually work. It probably wasn't worth the trouble and I would have given up and given the combs to some other colony, except it was a one of a kind top bar hive and they wouldn't fit anywhere else.
 

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I watched a video by Bob Binnie in which he found a laying worker colony. He put it on top of a queen right colony and poured sugar syrup into the top frames and then put the cover on it. He said, "By the time they lick each other off, they will be sisters".
Start at 24:17 on this video:
 
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