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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a hive that was a rescue from a cutout and was growing nicely with a good brood pattern. Something happened to the queen and it has been nothing but drone brood for quite some time, never succeeding in raising another queen apparently. What surprises me is how many bees are in the box after this time? how long would one expect before a hive like this dwindles?
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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Classic answer, it depends. In cold weather, a large queenless hive could potentially live for five to six months. In warmer weather, five to six weeks. I would guess that once the bees start to forage, their numbers will dwindle quickly. If the hive is drone layer or laying worker already, there is no hope of you saving them. Let it play out unless you need the comb. I have had a failing queen manage to lay a few fertilized eggs after laying up several frames of drones and the bees quickly built a supersedure cell with one of them. That hive did turn around, but not because of something I did.
 
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Did the hive go laying worker, or drone only laying queen?

Do you other hives have drones flying in TX? If so and drone only laying queen you might be able to give this hive a frame of eggs/open brood, chase off the old queen, and let them raise a new queen. If it is laying worker it is harder to recover, but can still be done if you have drones flying and want to transfer a frame of open brood from other hives once a week for a few weeks. I know I don't have drones here right now, but I am not sure about texas.
 

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Despite the negativism of Mr. Palmer, it is possible to keep a drone layer alive indefinitely by adding open brood from other hives at a level that they can just cover. Typically the hives you robbed will make extra brood to compensate, so little is lost but your time. You have the hives open, for inspections anyway.

Crazy Roland
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Down south of Houston we don't really get cold weather, so it makes sense that they've hung on for so long. It's been pushing a half a year at least. I've seen a number of queen cells over that time, but nothing ever materalizes. I'll see what can be done about it. We'll be in "spring" here in a week or two.

Early on it was a pretty decent amount of drone brood, so must have been a drone laying queen. Lately, not so much. I'm not sure what I have. I've never been able to see eggs in cells. Perhaps i need to start carrying a magnifying glass.
 

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One of the things you are fighting against with it being queenless is that the bees are short lived. And it seems like the danger is particularly high when you might get to a point where there could be no nurse bees, and no queen at the same time (this would be if no other frames of brood are brought in, as he said above; which could be naturally replenished by the other frame being brought in also). So while the hive is queenless, the hive is also aging at the same time (unless its winter).

I like the others comments also.
 

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Dont bank on a laying worker colony building cells on the first frame of brood you put in. If it is a drone laying queen and they are trying unsuccesfully to raise a queen, a frame of brood will do the trick. If full blown laying worker and no queen it is tough to requeen them. The population can appear to be ok for a while but it will be a lot of drones who are not foraging and no new workers graduating to foraging. No easy way out of that.
 

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I've seen a number of queen cells over that time, but nothing ever materalizes. I'll see what can be done about it. We'll be in "spring" here in a week or two.
I wonder if the hive was trying to make queen cells with a drone and it didn't work.

You can also take pictures of the frames with a camera then examine the pictures to look for eggs.

6 months seems like a long time for a hive to survive without a queen. I am thinking you had a drone only laying queen for a while and the hive may now be queenless.
 

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Despite the negativism of Mr. Palmer, it is possible to keep a drone layer alive indefinitely by adding open brood from other hives at a level that they can just cover. Typically the hives you robbed will make extra brood to compensate, so little is lost but your time. You have the hives open, for inspections anyway.

Crazy Roland
This is true, one can keep a hive going indefinitely by adding brood regularly, but that is not responding to the question as I read it. The OP did not ask about adding brood or any other manipulation, simply how long will it take for the hive to dwindle. As for introducing a queen or expecting the bees to make a queen after a long period of there being no new nurse bees, odds are definitely not in one's favor. Better to start a new colony with the resources you would otherwise have wasted.
 

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I wonder if the hive was trying to make queen cells with a drone and it didn't work.

You can also take pictures of the frames with a camera then examine the pictures to look for eggs.

6 months seems like a long time for a hive to survive without a queen. I am thinking you had a drone only laying queen for a while and the hive may now be queenless.
I have seen exactly that scenario; the resulting cells are commonly a bit longer and not as much webbing corrugations. There likely will be bullet nosed drone cells; drones capped in worker dia. cells.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I have seen exactly that scenario; the resulting cells are commonly a bit longer and not as much webbing corrugations. There likely will be bullet nosed drone cells; drones capped in worker dia. cells.
That sure sounds like my current situation. I'll go ahead and pull the plug on it. I'll do a closer inspection and determine whether I should combine it with another or shake it out. Thanks all.
 

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To crofters point, if laying worker probably better to not combine it if it is still "strong." I have not dealt with LW in full strength colony but just shake out mating Nucs that go LW. Often I don't replace the mating nuc in same location so bees are divide up to the neighbors and no issues. If a full strength colony I would put a frame of eggs in each week until they start cells. Then pull the frame with cells and newspaper combine. As I said I have not done this but some have said they have had problems with LW colony "overpowering" the QR colony(?). Presumably that is when it's an old queen or weak colony.... Good luck!
 

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Mr. Palmer - all that you have stated is true and accurate,, and that may be the intent of the OP. In nature, the hive would indeed dwindle in a time period roughly that of a workers lifespan at that time of year..
If we however consider that the middle part of "Beekeeper", is "Keep", due diligence should dictate that we spread the resources we have to keep the hive alive.. I would hope this is a beekeeping website, and not a beehaver website.

Crazy Roland
 

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If you put frames from other hives take hive tool and pull bottom of cell off 24 hour larva (OTS) helps them get the message .
 

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I beg to differ farmer. If they think they are queen right (because they have a drone layer or laying workers) they will rebuild the damaged cells before you get the rest of the hive closed up :)
If you are using really old brood comb and want to raise queens off the new frame in the problem colony (I don't recommend) then maybe ots.... But mostly the bees do a fine job making due with what we throw at them. Would be an interesting study to find out if emaergency queens or ots are better. I doubt it....
 

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Yes, could be. I have not found the little bit of ots I have experience with to be worth the trouble but we do have a lot of fairly new foundationless combs so they don't pose an issue. It may be that for someone with only old comb it is helpful. I can't imagine that ots queens are better than what the bees make.... Hence my interest in a study....
 

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I ran into an experience last year where I caught a swarm from one of my other hives in mid July and put them in an empty hive I had laying around. Somehow I missed the queen and through lack of good oversight they got to the point of laying workers. I bought another queen and tried to introduce her but they killed her so at that point I decided to let it go to see how long they could live and what would happen. The laying workers stopped laying when it started getting cold and they didn't lay all that much anyway. But I was amazed at how long these girls lived. This was my only hive that made it through the winter. All my other hives died of mites. But this hive had little to no brood so it had little to no mite problem either. The population gradually dwindled until there was only about a handful of bees left at the beginning of July the next year. Believe it or not they lived almost a year. They were pretty generic Italian variety bees. I know they are not supposed to live that long but nobody told them that. This is also when I realized that if I could beat the mite problem then a lot of the other problems, like cold, would take care of itself. This year I've focused on better mite management and my 2 hives are alive and well at least up to this point.
 

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I think varroa is more of a problem than most beeks realize and the virus problems live on after the mites are killed. A really good treatment plan starting 1 August is necessary for healthy winter bees and hive longevity.
 
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