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Hi everyone,

I am a new beekeeper in Colorado and I got my first package from R Weaver in May (about May 16) this year. I installed them into their hive and everything seemed ok. I had put an upside down bucket feeder in their hive (inside an empty super) to feed them even though we had many flowers blooming on our four acres out in the country.

On May 21, the bees "swarmed" (superceded I guess would be a better word for what seemed to have happened). They left the hive, the bucket of syrup untouched, and landed in a nearby tree. Husband and I caught them, put them back in, and changed the feeder because they weren't taking syrup.

After that they seemed to settle in. I had luckily also caught the queen but after re-installing them, they kept kicking the queen out. I'd find her on the ground (she was marked and clipped) with bees around her. They didn't look like they were balling or trying to kill--just that she had gotten out somehow and they were nearby. At this point in time I had a queen excluder under the inner cover and an entrance reducer. This happened at least three times. Each time, I would get the queen and gently put her back in the hive.

After another week, I checked in on them. The queen was staying put for now but no larvae and no evidence of anything really happening other than some foundation being drawn out. I got worried that maybe something was wrong with the queen and let her go a while longer, checking every week. Still no larvae. Meanwhile the bees were foraging and building comb ok. I'd see them come back with pollen.

Four weeks from when I first installed had passed and I broke down and ordered a queen with attendants from a different company in California. I removed the original queen 24 hours ahead of time. However, I saw queen cups being built and left them alone because I wasn't sure what to do. I recieved the new queen with attendants and installed her in the hive in her cage with attendants, but a day later I checked and she was dead. Her attendants were alive. I let them free to join the hive or not. Sadly, my previous queen died in the interim, leaving the hive definitely queenless.

I began to think, after researching, that I probably had a laying worker colony given the queen cups that had appeared and the dead queen that I tried to introduce. However, I don't really know what's happening with my hive now. It's currently August 23, over three months from when I got the original package, and my bees are still in the hive, still making honey (not a ton but there's comb and honey), and I'm still not really seeing larvae. Can a queenless colony possibly live this long? Did they somehow manage to make a virgin queen who maybe mated with a neighboring drone? I'm really just trying to leave them alone as much as I can but when I check in on them, I am not sure if I am seeing a colony that is slowly dying or one that is living but off to a very slow start because of the beginning issues.

What do readers think? Here is a picture of my hive after inspection today. I left two frames too far apart and now they've built comb up too thick between them. They started building onto the inner cover, too, as you can see here. I scraped that off and put it in the bottom of the hive for them to maybe recycle. They have built up a little on frame 1 and frame 4, a ton in between frames 2 and 3, and nothing on the rest. And it is a 10-frame setup; I took some frames out to install the feeder and have since taken it out and didn't yet replace the missing frames.

I don't know if I should be expecting them to live through the fall and winter or if they will die off by then because they're not replacing workers. Help!
 

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Welcome to Beesource!!

Well, first off you can never violate bee space!! Bee space: Anything larger than 3/8" will be filled with wax, anything smaller than 3/8" will be filled with propolis. The one exception to this is near the bottom board. You are going to have to clean up the mess they made in the open space eventually and if they are currently broodless now would be the best time. Them leaving in less than a week....I would call that absconding not swarming and if the queen was clipped they would have been doomed anyway. I have no idea why you kept finding the queen in the grass unless they had attempted to abscond on more than one occasion. I would suggest you carefully go thru the hive and look for the presence of eggs, and if found if there are more than one to a cell and/or are they on the cell wall. If you are indeed queenless then the hive is dying and to survive needs a queen. I currently have a queenless hive myself that I am giving fresh frames of eggs to so hopefully they will make a new one in time but it sounds like this is your only hive. I would either attempt to intro a new purchased queen (assuming you do not have laying workers) or start over in the spring.
 

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Only thing that i can think of:

If they are making queen cups, they probably had some eggs, and if they had eggs, the queen was probably laying at least a little.

Also the workers last between 30-50 days (i think, not an expert), so if the hive is older than that, they must have replaced some. I'd say at 3 months you definitely have new bees.

Laying workers only make drones, since all the eggs are unfertilized.

The hive will usually not tolerate 2 queens, so if there was a home-made queen she may have been able to kill the new queen. I'd check again - the larvae and eggs are real hard to see. i'd say your previous queen was probably just a poor layer - i've read (dolittle) that they can get injured in shipping and it can impair their laying abilities. A homegrown queen will hopefully not have that problem.

good luck!
-tmk
 

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I second the idea that you get that cleaned up asap. However, it looks like they built comb between two frames, parallel to the frames, and tied it all together. Is that correct? Are you using foundationless frames, or foundation?

On the outside chance there are eggs and larvae in that extra comb that you cannot see or get to, I'd leave it, but move the other frames closer so the bee space isn't violated. You don't want to lose any bees that will emerge from that brood comb. I'd also be feeding heavily to help them get the rest of those frames drawn out.

Due to the age of the hive, it would seem you have a laying queen, producing workers. As they draw out new comb, and she moves to lay in the new comb, I'd work the existing bad comb to the outside, and plan on removing it next spring, when it is empty.
Hope this helps, and good luck!
Steven
 

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hello,also in colorado.I'd leave them alone if there is a young virgin queen introducing a new queen will complacate the matters.Its been 3 months your probably fine.unless you see lots of drones all the empty space in the hive don't help on population growth. need to place a spacer to make the hive smaller.use 5 frame nuc when installing packages there easy to build .since your in durango and winter almost here I'd suggest you start feeding.patties..they'll take probably 3 1#ers to make winter my first package looked like yours same supplier they died that late spring .:eek:t:Had new queen ordered and made a walk away split early spring.all was not lost went away from itall breed.. breeds i have are 2 russian/carnolian,2new world carnolian,1carnolian and 1 local hive i removed from city building last summer which surprised me that they are still alive they were sprayed with pesticide.
 

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With your location those bees are doomed. The population is way to small and the bees are to old. They will not survive the winter even if you gave them another queen. Shake them out into soapy water. Clean your equipment up and store it away till next spring. You can start over fresh then.
 

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Is it possible the first queen from the package was a virgin and was trying to make mating flights but with clipped wings instead of up she went down and that is why you kept finding her on the ground and why there was no eggs or larva?
 

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Beeslave is correct.

I counted maybe 4 frames (max) of drawn comb, bees covering maybe 3 frames. You have maybe 2 brood cycles left before winter in your area.

In that time, you won't be able to:
1. build up the population
2. draw out the 8 - 12 combs they will need to overwinter on
3. Put up and evaporate the syrup that they need to store in order to survive the winter.

At this point, if you had any one of those three things already (large population, drawn comb or another hive to rob frames of honey from), you might be able to do the other two.

Trying to do all three is almost certainly fail.

There is an old saying, "Good beekeepers take their losses in the fall."
That is to say - they don't waste time and resources on hives that are doomed anyway - they combine them or dump them and clean the equipment so it is ready for the spring.

Sorry

Mike
 
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