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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Went into winter with two hive, good populations of bees, but neither hive had what I thought was enough honey, just shy of one full medium each. I started feeding in August, and fed until weather got cold.
Went to check on them this week with the warm weather. One hive empty - no bees, but a small amount of honey still left in the super. The other has a small population of bees, with honey in the super. I fed last week when the weather first warmed up good.
I did an inspection today on the hive that still has bees, and found the upper deep box is full of honey. I have not seen this before. When I got to the deep full of honey, I was expecting to find no brood. The bottom box is essentially empty, but with small clusters of brood, some capped and some uncapped, but none less than about a week old. I did not find the queen.
Is this a case of laying worker? I've not seen that before, and don't know what the symptoms of a worker-laying hive are. If there is no queen, is there a hope of resurrecting the hive?
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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Give it another week to see if the cells, once capped, are drones. If so, laying worker or failed queen. Are your hives in the sun? Sunlight warms the hives and promotes brooding. Also, are you feeding pollen sub or patties? Lack of protein will keep a brood nest small until it is available, which it now is. I put patties on in January and open feed sub all winter. I had large amounts of brood in the four hives I split yesterday. I could not find the queen in two of them, but the brood told me she was there.
 

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A queen just started laying is not much different in size than a worker. Plus queens love to run and hide. If the capped brood is level with the top of the drawn cells, they are almost certainly normal worker brood. A little sugar syrup will get them brooding up faster too. Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the replies.
The hives are in the woods, not feeding pollen patties, will add that today. I will also put more syrup on today. They took all of the 2 quarts I put on last weekend.

In the hive that was empty. It was truly empty - no bees, except the twenty or so dead on the bottom board. I've had hives freeze to death and hives starve. But here, there was honey still in the hive (though not much) and no bees. It looks like they just absconded.

I did not take any honey off in the fall, since they hadn't really produced much. I started feeding in August to try to help them build up stores, but they just never did very much. This was the same in both hives. They had room to build up - I took empty supers off when I was getting ready for winter.

Hoping for a better year this year. I'm not sure what to do with the honey in the deep box. It is completely full (and heavy!). I have not used deep boxes before, but bought these from a friend who was getting out of the bee hobby, and I was ready to get back in. I used to run 3 mediums for brood and medium supers, with an occasional shallow for comb honey. I'm thinking of feeding it back to the bees.
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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C Duke, where we are there is no fall honey. The nectar flow turns off like a faucet around the first of July and you have to feed sugar and pollen constantly until soybeans, goldenrod, and asters start in late August. We also need to start treating no later than August to have strong healthy hives going into winter.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I had not had that experience before, but it was just as you describe. Just nothing after the middle of summer. I'm in King George, about an hour from you.
I had always had a spring flow and a fall flow, but last year, nothing in the fall. I live in the woods - lots of beech, poplar, hickory, oak. There's a small stream 50 feet from the bee yard.
I had hoped to split hives this Spring, but it looks like that will have to wait.
 

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You said the bees absconded... do you treat for mites? There is always a reason for an abscond... skunks or other predator stress, disease, SHB bad infestation, too much shade, yellow jackets or wasp, didn't like the box, wet box ???
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I do treat for mites, last year was the first year that I've done that. OA vapor - I did two cycles last year in April and again in August. Every five days for a month (six treatments). I didn't find any evidence of SHB or wax moths. Could be skunks, I do live in the woods, but have only seen one skunk since we've lived here, 20 years. We do have an abundance of yellow jackets, but haven't seen any around the hives. And there was honey left in the super. I would have thought that yellow jackets would have robbed that out of there, if that was the case.
I did notice that the front of the inner cover was damp, like the roof had a little leak.
I am wondering about my choice of location for the hives. I had picked it many years ago because of its proximity to the creek.
 

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C Duke, I think you need to get an experienced beek to come help you do an autopsy on the empty hive, You need to understand what happened and why. Maybe your local bee club could help, Before you do anything, take lots of pictures of the frames just as you found them and the hive setup on the stand. Being able to view them on a computer may reveal the cause. That said... the honey is good, extract and consume or store in a refrigerator (standing up) to feed back to bees in July. Laying workers are easy to determine.....multiple eggs in the cells and easily seen on a computer. As JWPalmer said about the hive WITH bees, give them another week and see if you have eggs from a missed queen, If this hive is small it needs to be condensed into a smaller box. The empty hive needs immediate attention or SHB / wax moth will ruin that comb. Consider moving the hives to a location that has more sun and maybe where you will see them often. Seeing hive activity daily may alert you if a problem arises. Good luck, don't get discouraged, CATCH SOME SWARMS.
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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If the only fall treatment was a five round (oops, six) program in August, mites are almost certainly the cause. They are also the most likely reason the remaining hive is not building up rapidly. I would suggest immediately (today) treating with OAV and use a sticky board to see what has fallen on Tuesday. You may be suprised at the number. The largest influx of mites occurs in Sept and Oct as other hives around you begin to fail and the bees bring those mites back to the hive.

This is local information for Central VA and may be different in other areas of the country.
 
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What JW said...and IMMEDIATELY is key. Mites are a vector for several viruses and a mite feeding on the fat body (organ) leaves viruses that will infect winter bees and bee transmitted to the babies. It's a domino affect, everything begins to fall (fail). If indeed you had a mite bomb, every bee in the hive probably got infected but you may be able to save the remainder IF you have (get, buy) a queen and eliminate the mites. If you don't have a population of several thousand then economics says you start over with a nuc or package and write off this year. When fighting mites you need to bee brutal, take NO prisoners and treat until they are 0, if possible, 15 times in a row if necessary. Good beekeepers work hard and think BEES 24/7. It's like being a DAD with LOTS of good-looking daughters. One very obvious sign of mite problems is DWV (deformed wing virus). Another reason to LOOK at your bees at the entrance / inner cover daily. We have beat you up enough, go research and fix it (been there, done that).
 
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