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Lots of Bees but no brood.. what happend?

6302 Views 20 Replies 16 Participants Last post by  RiodeLobo
So I finally got a chance to do a thorough check in the hive yesterday after our long winter and I was surprised to find NO brood at all, at any stage of development. However, there are lots of bees (3 frames full). There is still lots of honey in the hive as well and the hive was clean and orderly with no indication of disease or invaders like mice.

This makes me think I lost the queen quite a while ago in winter and that these bees are older ones that are still alive from the harsh winter. Observing at the entrance on semi-warm days in winter seemed like normal activity and so I was quite surprised. Even yesterday I observed many foragers coming back with pollen. The hive wasn't particularity testy and I didn't spot any signs of a laying worker, so my only other hypothesis is that the queen is in fact there (although I didn't see her) but she is not laying. Also, I found no evidence of queen cells.

So the question is.. which is likely the case? And second, if the hive is indeed queenless, what should I do with the remaining bees? I'm guessing it is too late to introduce a new queen since there is no brood at all. Maybe combine these queenless bees with an existing colony?

Thanks for the help,
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What breed of bees are they? some queens are just late to start laying and with the crazy weather that everyone is having, i don't blame her. If i was sure they are queenless i would combine them and split later.
You should know a queenless hive almost just based on behavior. Can you spot eggs?
I think your queen isn't laying yet - otherwise you should have laying workers. The reason may be that you don't have enough pollen yet. Try feeding them a patty and some light syrup (1:1) for a few days and see if you see any eggs.
Thanks for the quick responses everyone!

The queen is a hybrid from a local apiary that I suspect is Carniolan and/or Russian (very dark colored bees, very gentle, and frugal with honey stores). They were very calm yesterday when I inspected the hive, similar to their usual behavior. I haven't spotted any eggs yet, but I'll feed some light syrup and pollen to see if that starts some brood.
But can YOU spot eggs. I'm just asking because plenty of people have the notion of what things look like but can't see it when prompted.
JRG13, you make a good point... it is only my second year at this and I'm going to be honest and say that I haven't been put to the test to identity eggs independently and probably couldn't do so. So indeed, there is a possibility of eggs in the hive, which would be great!
It is too late in the season for varietal variation in brood rearing. I would bet you have a geriatric ward being all that they can be. I would combine them with a queenrite colony so they could jumpstart that broodnest. If it is your only hive I am sorry but prognosis for requeening such successfully is guarded at best.
Had a similar situation last winter, the queen was still present holding the colony together but I suspect she was out of eggs...either way she was non laying. Requeened but to no avail. Colony died out. Turns out I would have been better off combining with another hive as Vance suggested.

My word of caution before combining is to make absolutely certain that there is no queen in this colony. If there is a dud queen in there when you combine them, the two queens are probably going to duke it out until only one remains alive. If the dud queen is the survivor, you just ruined another colony.
If you have a hive that could spare a frame of brood that sometimes wakes up queen that is dragging. Another option would be to place this colony on top of another separated with a queen excluder.
I'm up here in downtown Carney. I have Italians; one hive is booming, and yesterday I was able to do a quick check, did not see the queen, but saw one frame of capped brood. The other hive I believe is queenless and maybe 2000 bees. I pulled 5 of the frames out of that 8-frame and put them into a 5-frame nuc. The booming hive has lots of pollen coming in, while the nuc has NO pollen coming in. You may still have a queen. Looks like weather will be OK to check next Friday or Saturday (after the snow :pinch:).
I had a hive of carniolans last march that, like you, I would have sworn was queenless but had a lot of bees. Since I'm usually wrong about almost everything going on with my bees, I left some fondant and pollen patty anyway and eventually split a booming colony. Go figure.
Since I'm usually wrong about almost everything going on with my bees, .....
LOL! Aren't we all?

I'm in the same boat. I already gave them some eggs and nothing. I can get a queen in three weeks. Why does everyone say its so hard to requeen them? Is three weeks too long. Is it better to just combine?
go through it again.
she is probably there.
just checked two hives, both queen right and no brood.
in Indiana and March ..
too early to be panicking!
in MD has to be a lot cooler than In.
your OK.
Give it some more time, pretty early. The bees know more then we do.
Best of luck.
Do you have another hive that you can steal a frame of eggs from? If you don't then Id go with what has been suggested. If you do then put the frame in that hive and if they make queen cells they are queenless. I just posted a question that involved a Nuc that sounds exactly just like you described. I looked through it three times looking for eggs and queen to no avail. I wasn't 100% sure that eggs weren't there because the lighting wasn't great (sun went behind some clouds) So just to be sure I threw in a frame with eggs in it from another nuc I had. Checked it 24 hours later and queen cells had been started so I combine it with another hive.
>Do you have another hive that you can steal a frame of eggs from?

That's what I'd do if you have one with eggs. The queen can lay more than the workers can handle right now and giving a frame of eggs to the hive that has none gives them the opportuinity to raise a queen if they want but doesn't interfere much otherwise. If they are not inclined to raise brood right now, they will probably remove them. If they are queenless they will probably start queen cells. If they are queenright and so inclined it might set them on the road to rearing brood which, in MD might be a good time in order to get a crop...
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