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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I figure something other than swarming happened to my queen. In my best hive (6 gallons of surplus honey last year as a starting nuc colony), inspection yesterday revealed no queen, no eggs, no uncapped brood, rare capped brood and most of that was drone cells. Found one capped supercedure cell that I damaged when I pulled that frame out. Last inspected 3 weeks previously and noted (from my records) "one or two empty swarm cell cups." By my math, no eggs have been laid for about 2-2.5 weeks since shortly after I last inspected. If there had been a swarm, wouldn't the replacement queen have been out by now? If a new queen were to emerge now (or be introduced) wouldn't there be a problem with a shortage of nurse bees given how few capped brood cells there were?
 

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I would always give them some open brood with eggs and see what happens.

If they lost a queen it takes FOUR weeks to get from an egg to a laying queen. So it's not at all unsual for a supercedure or a lost queen to result on no brood at all in the hive. The problem is it's possible there is a virgin that hasn't mated yet and it's also possible they are queenless. The brood gives them the resources to resolve it if they need to. If they won't then either they now have laying workers or they have a virgin, otherwise they would make a queen.

In a few days you can check back and see if they've started queen cells. If they have, then you can choose to let them raise one or buy one. If they haven't then you'll have to comb back in another one and a half to two weeks weeks and see if they have a queen.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Michael, as usual, thanks for your instructional reply. General question: when there's been such a delay in egg-laying and brood rearing, where do the nurse bees come from to nurse new eggs and brood at this point (if a queen was about to start laying)? In other words, wouldn't there be a resource allocation problem with not enough nurse bees available to "tend to the young?"

Many thanks,

David in Baltimore
 

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>How long can they remain queenless and still introduce a queen with success ?

I haven't seen laying workers in less than three weeks. Sometimes it takes longer. Once you have those you won't suceed very will introducting a queen. Before that you have a very good chance.

>General question: when there's been such a delay in egg-laying and brood rearing, where do the nurse bees come from to nurse new eggs and brood at this point (if a queen was about to start laying)? In other words, wouldn't there be a resource allocation problem with not enough nurse bees available to "tend to the young?"

Field bees are capable of being nurse bees and will do that when the need arises. According to Jay Smith the field bees that convert back to being nurse bees actually do a better job. I don't know if they do or not, but they do an adequate job anyway.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
That is a terrific thing to know. Many thanks!

I reinspected the hive yesterday and found the queen. (So much for my observational skills.) She was up in the only super where there were mostly capped drone cells and nectar, and there were only a handful of new eggs, but they were there. She looked fine. Full size. Not trimmed down as if she was ready to swarm (as if I can tell?).

Two questions:
(1) Can queens get stuck up in the top like that and almost stop laying eggs completely because they don't go down to open comb?; and
(2) In light of this queen and the fact that I've been finding other queens in upper boxes more this spring than last year (and more frequently reversing food and brood chambers), is it possible that the cooler-than-normal temperatures we've had have driven the queens up?

Many thanks,

David in Baltimore
 

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This spring, I ALSO had a problem with a hive having no brood and no queen.

I introduced eggs, and they did NOT make a queen cell. 2 weeks later, there was capped brood. And, it was NOT the brood I had given them!

I have since decided that there MUST have been a virgin queen in there somewheres: it is the only way the numbers add up.
 

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>(1) Can queens get stuck up in the top like that and almost stop laying eggs completely because they don't go down to open comb?; and

Queens wander all over, they just usually try to lay in the brood nest. If you doubt this, just put a frame of drone foundation in the top super with no excluder and see how long before she finds it and lays in it. She's not stuck.

>(2) In light of this queen and the fact that I've been finding other queens in upper boxes more this spring than last year (and more frequently reversing food and brood chambers), is it possible that the cooler-than-normal temperatures we've had have driven the queens up?

The bees go where they want. Maybe it's because you keep disrupting the brood nest by reversing?

>This spring, I ALSO had a problem with a hive having no brood and no queen.

You assumed.

>I introduced eggs, and they did NOT make a queen cell.

Which is when I would assume there IS a queen that is not laying yet.

>2 weeks later, there was capped brood. And, it was NOT the brood I had given them!

A common mistake is to do this same thing except buy a queen which they reject, buy another which they reject and then finally find brood and a queen that is not the one you bought.

>I have since decided that there MUST have been a virgin queen in there somewheres: it is the only way the numbers add up.

And this is a typical occurance. If a queen accidently dies and they raise a replacement, that replacement will emerge in about 13 days (because they started with a 3 day old larva), but there won't be eggs until 25 days or more (because of hardening, orientation and mating flights) and by then there is no brood and no eggs for some time.

You should feel lucky you didn't buy three queens before you figured it out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
OK, Michael. Point well taken. But is there something else I should be thinking about at this point since I hadn't inspected this hive (or disrupted the brood nest) in 3 weeks. Does the queen "stuck in the top with minimal eggs laid" despite 3 weeks without disruption suggest a hive getting ready to swarm or a failing queen?

Many thanks,

David in Baltimore
 

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I don't think I've ever seen that. Sometimes I've found two queens, one above and one below the excluder and sometimes two in the same brood nest. Is there a brood nest in the bottom? Are the bees clustering in the bottom and the queen is not with them? The queen should be where the main cluster is and where the brood nest is. If she's not, I'm betting there's another queen in there who is.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Hmmmm....there was no excluder in this hive. There was no brood nest in the bottom, only empty drawn comb. Most of the bees were up high in the medium super with the queen.

I'm sure I did something wrong (to cause or contribute to this weird situation), but I don't know what.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I here ya. So often, your advice is to "remain calm. stop overanalyzing. they're doing what they're supposed to be doing." And I appreciate it. Sorry I need the advice so often.


I suppose I oughtta just remember the quote at the bottom of your signature line, "Everything works if you let it."

Terri, thanks for the thoughts. I think there's just one queen. She's marked from last year. I assume they'd have polished the old one off if they built a new one.

Thanks,

David in Baltimore
 

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The main thing is to make sure the bees have the RESOURCES to deal with whatever might be happening. If they appear queenless, make sure they've got some eggs so they can make one IF they need one. I think one of the most common mistakes is to assume a hive is queenless because there is no brood. The next most common is not to give them the resoureces in CASE they are queenless.

Laying workers, of course, require a bit more intervention, but most every other situation you just need to give them the resources and they will take care of things.
 

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Here is a novice question for sure:

Can't you just put the upper hive body box on the bottom and the bottom one above it? And then you have the brood below and a potential super above? Or is it best to let them move down? I had kind of thought their inclination was to move up? Just wondering...
 
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