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Discussion Starter #1
Not sure how to solve this puzzle :

Have three hives left. The bees in all hives are bringing pollen.

One has small population, saw the queen and she is laying, very dark brown queen and very dark bees.
The second hive has even smaller population, saw the eggs, didn't see the queen. Hoping that she is there. The bees occupy less than 3 medium frames space, so it is a really smallish population, these bees are very dark.
The 3rd hive has lots of bees - mixed dark and lighter ones. This is a very populous hive…but they have flying drones already…
Opened them up today and cleaned the hive - they have lots of bees in a deep box - I didn't see any eggs or a queen. in a medium box they have eggs and larvae and scattered drone brood. I didn't find the queen in that box either.

What should I do in this situation ? Should I combine this big hive with a very small one, checking that there is no queen in a big hive and making sure there is a queen in a small hive ? Or should I just give the big one some time, hoping that there is a queen and she is or will be laying soon enough ?

Not sure how to estimate the risk of leaving one very small hive be versus the risk of combining this very small hive with another one possible queen-less and/or drone laying.
I could possibly let the small hive be and order a new queen for my large drone laying hive. Not sure I want to sacrifice any frames with eggs from my third small hive.
Also…we are getting some cold nights (25F) and days ahead of us again….

Any suggestions please ?
 

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Not sure how to solve this puzzle :

Have three hives left. The bees in all hives are bringing pollen.
So, what is your problem besides you hitting the panic button?

When you know you have a drone laying hive than you can do something. Guessing and then doing something is a bad formula.
 

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I'm in the Capital District, too. And it has been agonizingly slow here to turn from winter to spring this year.

I think I would wait it out past the cold temps next week, then reassess, before deciding about combining. In that time you may find that the eggs in the big hive are demonstrably workers, which means you do have a queen and your only issues are whether the smaller hives can build up satisfactorily. If you are worried about the upcoming temps and the little hives, can you cob togther some extra insulation around those hives to carry them through next week? I know they've already survived an unnaturally cold December and a fierce January and a frigid February and a miserably long March and half of a chilly April so you'd think they could handle a (another!) mere week of nights in the 20's, but back then they didn't have brood and they hadn't started to expand. And they may now have gotten their stores down to minimums. I have removed much of my insulation, but it's standing by to be reapplied on Monday before dark. And I'll make sure they have some pollen sub, etc. to nosh on while they wait out next week. I have been feeding for awhile and my ladies only found their first pollen on Thursday.

Enj.
 

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I'm with Acebird. I'm not sure there's a problem.

IMO dark bees tend to go thru winter in a smaller cluster and start buildup slightly later.
Pro- they use less stores and I believe have a better survival rate.
Con- they miss some of the early spring flows

On your drone layer. If you have larva in worker cells it's probably good. If you have larva in drone cells and eggs in worker cells it's not good.

If you have a confirmed drone layer she will have to be replaced as soon as possible. The good news is as long as she's there you won't have to worry about laying workers IMO.

I'm quite a bit south of you and my dark bees are just getting ramped up. I would think you would be a couple weeks behind me.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Guessing and then doing something is a bad formula.
Posting the questions is = to hitting the panic button ? No, I am not guessing, nor acting in a hurry. So … what do you suggest Acebird, other than 'do something' ?
 

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If you know it's a drone layer, just shake it out and take the equipment away. the bees will merge into the smaller hives, if it's a drone layer all you have is old bees so trying to requeen will be improbable.
 

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Posting the questions is = to hitting the panic button ? No, I am not guessing, nor acting in a hurry. So … what do you suggest Acebird, other than 'do something' ?
You mentioned scattered drone brood. Was there any worker brood in that same box too? If it truly is a drone layer do as Wildbranch described. If not, do a paper combine w/ the weaker colony and the stronger one and later on do a split when you can get a queen getting you back to your full count of three hives.
 

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So … what do you suggest Acebird, other than 'do something' ?
I was sure that the "something" would be filled in by other members of the forum but it all hinges on proving to yourself what you have. That was the point of my first comment.

I have two boomers and one dink coming out of winter. Yesterday it looked like I had 4 hives when I pulled a cover off a stack of equipment near by. It was like a swarm in there. In total disbelief, I quickly made an inner cover so they wouldn't wax the top in. In the evening I checked again and they were all but a few gone. What you think is happening might not be what is actually happening. In these cases time is your friend. If it turns out to be a mistake because you waited, you learn. Far better in my view than making a mistake because you didn't wait because you can't always learn from that.
 

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Whereas Brian, if you had looked deeper or closer you could have figured out that those bees were checking for and finding residual honey and then you wouldn't have paniced and done unnecessary work. Or, you could have left things alone until the next day and seen that there was no activity.

Besides, swarming in NY at this time of year w/ the winter we just had?
 

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Mark, I was unclothed.:D With 500 bees going in the air all at once it took me by surprise.

What happens to the bees that obscond from people doing splits, or installing packages from the south?

This equipment has been standing next to three hives for 2 solid years. There is no residual anything in there except a little moth damage.
 

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karu, back to you, there are some ways to hedge your bet. You can look very carefully at the eggs, are they on the sides or bottom of the cell. You can put the small hive on top of the large hive, single screen and spacer or double screen. Start suppressing if LW if that is the case or warmer for small if not.
 

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On your drone layer. If you have larva in worker cells it's probably good. If you have larva in drone cells and eggs in worker cells it's not good.
-- Wolfer, can you explain ?
So the scattered capped drone brood is in regular cells, and they are raised like bullets, so they are drones. There are also eggs, larvae in various stages - there is no way to determine if it is worker or drone if it is in a regular cell and un-capped, or is there a way ?
All of the eggs are on bottom of cells, nothing on sides. Only one egg per cell as far as I can tell. There is no capped worker brood, if I had that I would be happier, unless all of them hatched already ? And therefore I can't see anything capped ? I should look for some young bees in this case, right ? I probably should aim finding the queen and if I find her give them some time ?
As for the little hive I'll just give them the chance of their own, and will try to keep them warmer.
 

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I guess some bees will leave a drone egg in a worker cell and just build it out bigger. My bees didn't do this. If an egg was placed in a drone cell it was allowed to stay. If they were in worker cells the bee police would drag them out.

On my first drone layer. This was how I found out. I would do an inspection, I would see a queen, eggs and drone brood but no worker brood. One day I marked a frame that was full of eggs and checked in a couple days. It was empty. So much time had passed that by the time I bought a queen they never did build up and I lost them to robbers.

I've had a few drone layers. This comes with raising queens too early and they don't get mated as well as they should.
I've learned to recognize the symptom's pretty quick. But I've also learned to raise my queens later so I don't have much problem anymore.

Hope this helps.
Woody Roberts
 

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Added thoughts. If it is a drone layer swapping in a frame from your other hive would let them start QCs, then you would know for sure.
Myself, I would move 2 frames with bees to your smallest hive from your largest to get them going.
 

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My drone layers would never supersede when I gave them a frame of eggs. I've always had to kill her first.
Another caution that I've had trouble with. Once bees reach a certain age they won't try to raise a queen.

I've found it's best to combine them and start a nuc in their equipment or as early as it is buy a queen.

Just my experience, yours may vary.
Woody Roberts
 

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Queenless, broodless, LW and drone laying hives will all bring in pollen. Do not look quite right, but they will bring some in.
 

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Queenless, broodless, LW and drone laying hives will all bring in pollen. Do not look quite right, but they will bring some in.
They will also bring in tons of honey so take the honey and dump the hive after the flow.
 

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Karu, can you post a picture of the brood? Preferably one or more pics showing both sealed and unsealed brood, in worker sized cells, and if you can, some eggs.

My gut feel is it is laying workers but a good pic would make it possible to know for sure. If that is confirmed, then do either a shake or combine. Me, I combine such hives, but most people shake them.
 
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