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Struggling Hive - three and a half weeks old

1992 Views 22 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  Annabee
Okay, I have a hive ( a three and a half week old package ) that wound up losing a good amount of the workers to drift. They also decided to supersede their new queen ---I left one healthy cell for them to do this after reading here that it's common, and it's best to allow them to handle it.

I checked today and the cell had hatched, and I did see a queen on the comb -- I don't know if this is the old queen, or the new queen --- I mean, either one could have won in a queen battle -- two weeks ago there was a small neat patch of capped brood -- about the size of a dvd.

Now there is a sparse ring of maybe 20 cells capped. This is possibly from the original queen.

I didn't see any eggs or larvae but I am planning on getting a better look in the morning.

There are maybe a few hundred workers left in this sad little colony. They have syrup in cells, but there were empty as well. Since all my 4 other hives are also new, though doing way better than this! --- I really don't want to take brood from any others. I am not sure what to do, if there was any hope for these guys, I'd love to know what to do ---- and I hate to 'waste' a good queen.

Although I have no way yet to know if this IS a good one, really --- for all I know shes an unsuccessfully mated virgin :(

Ideas on any way to save them? Or how to proceed? Thanks!
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This is a bad situation. Is there any beeks near you that would let you have a frame of brood. I had the same issue last year and got a frame form my dad it made all the difference. I am one who prolly messes with the bees to much but I cant let one die if there is something I may be able to do. Last resort rob from one of the stronger hives if they are 3 1/2 weeks should be having new bees hatching by now. Just my 2 cents which is not worth much.
borrow a frame of brood with nurse bees and put into this hive to help balance that out and then switch locations with the other hive to help balance out the foragers.
I second the "switcharoo". Those hives are awfully new to be stealing brood from.
The chances are very high that the remaining queen is the new queen. Virgins and young just laying queens are much more agile than an old laying queen is, the young queen wins. It could also be that the old queen swarmed away with a small amount of bees, this sometimes happens. At any rate, you now have a small weak colony. How many frames of bees are left in it? The weather has warmed, so spring chill brood is not a problem now. If you leave this hive be to it's own fate, it may very well make it, especially if it has a couple frames worth of bees. It would help it out tremendously if you gave them a frame of emerging brood with bees, but it may not be necessary, depends on how many bees you have left in it and how the flows are and if you feed or not.

I have a hive that got down to only a couple frames of bees six weeks ago. within the last five days I checked and it had only 3 frames of bees or so. Today I checked and sealed brood must have emerged because now I have 7 to 8 frames of bees. So, yours may make it, but will take some time.
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Thanks for the advice guys --- two questions:

1. How can I tell at this point if I even have a laying mated queen in there? Just keep looking for eggs? As much as I hate to lose this little colony, I'm worried that they are goners due to this queen situation.

I see like 15-20 capped cells ...possibly she didn't even mate?

Theres like --- two frames of bees, a few hundred literally.

2. If I move the boxes around, to get a new forager population added in, wont the incoming foragers that 'don't belong' just be denied access and / or attacked ?
Sorry to be the one to tell you but without adding bees, this hive isn't going to make it. I'm not sure I would put any effort into saving this colony. Since you state that you lost workers to drift I presume you have other colonies. Perhaps a newspaper combine? Do you know anyone locally who might need a queen of unknown origin? If you are going to take resources from your other colonies to save this one, take twice the amount you think you need.
If I move the boxes around, to get a new forager population added in, wont the incoming foragers that 'don't belong' just be denied access and / or attacked ?
Returning foragers bearing nectar or pollen are generally let right in with no fuss.
If you switch positions with a stronger hive, there won't be much fighting at all. The bees coming in are loaded with stores, so they are admitted in with no problems, especially with a weak hive to enter. Robber bees don't have stores with them to be coming in and fighting ensues. I thought you said you saw the queen in there?
I did see the queen, definitely.

And that's my concern too, without wanting to take from the other new and good colonies, there doesn't seem to be much hope.

I think the idea of taking a frame of eggs from another might be the way I go if I see any proof in the morning that this queen actually IS mated and laying -- right now I'm so leery of draining the resources of the other hive next to it either forager OR brood wise, in case this queen is a bust --- I don't see any way they have a prayer if she isn't mated and laying as of right now.

There likely just isn't time for the any more buildup.

I'll check in the morning when I can wear the suit again without heatstroke, lol, it's pushing mid 90's here.

Thanks for the advice guys, I feel I have some options now. :)
Oh and no, I really don't have anyone near me to aid in the brood situation.

Pretty remote location.
Okay toying with an idea, and I still might not do it if shes not showing signs of brood in the morning --- but what about doing that newspaper combine and doing it with a QE in between, possibly making a 2 Queen colony ??

Not sure if this would work, but if she's laying .......
My guess is you will see eggs in the morning. If you can just give them a little boost with a few more bees to get them through until the new queens eggs can start hatching your hive should be ok. You can add bees by moving a frame of capped brood or you can switch the hives around. Try to do your inspection after the sun gets up so you can get a real good look for new eggs. Whether or not you have a laying queen at this point will be the deciding factor. If you don't find a queen I would go ahead and combine the two hives and resplit later.
The capped brood your seeing is probaly from your old queen. This one may not be laying yet. When she starts she can only lay as manny eggs as she has bees to take care of it.
From the time the queen cell was started I nearly always see eggs or small larva in 30 days. One hive took 34. If your package is 3-1/2 weeks old it's highly unlikely she's laying yet.

Two frames is slow to get started but are capable of making it.
Woody Roberts
Thanks guys, I'm hoping to know a lot more at tomorrow's inspection in the cool morning.

I really appreciate all the input. :)

~ Anna
If you try to join it as a 2 queen hive with excluder, you will still be robbing Peter to pay Paul, I would not do it myself. I would go into one of my stronger hives and grab a frame or two of open larva bees in the cool early morning, and shake the bees off of a couple frames into the weaker hive. This will give them younger nurse bees which is ideally what the new queen needs. Doing it in the cooler early morning will help insure there are nurse bees on the frames in more abundant numbers that doing it in the heat of the day.
Time will tell, however one of the biggest challenges for a small cluster such as this is temperature. There are not enough bees to regulate the temperature, so even if the queen is mated, or if she is virgin and gets mated, she may not be able to raise brood successfully.

I would make sure the little cluster is in the smallest box you can find, so that they have the best chance at temperature control. The other suggestion of making a dual queen hive is an excellent plan, if you don't do one of the other suggestions already made. By placing this little colony on top of one of the other nucs, it will get a big boost with regard to temperature control. I have used dual queen hives on several occasions to boost numbers with good success. That gets my vote.

Keep an eye on things for a few days if you choose to setup a dual queen hive. After combining, it is not uncommon for the bees to favor one queen over the other, and they may go to the other side, leaving one queen all alone with no bees to support her. If this happens, try swapping queens with sides (frame and all), and mix em up a bit.
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Be patient with the new queen. they take a couple of weeks to start laying after mating.
I have the same thing, bought 3lb bees and a queen, put um in a nuc and a deep, the deep had comb in it, so they started hanging out there, left the nuc alone, so I swapped them tonight and put the deep on the bottom, also saw 5 queen cells so the original queen must me gone, also noticed uncapped honey, and no brood, I'm gonna put a frame of brood tomorrow from another hive and see if that helps.
I would suggest saving the hive by adding a frame of brood (with the nurse bees attached) from one of the other new hives. Do the same three weeks in a row, if possible...if the other hives/queens are doing well, they will be fine and not suffer too much because of this. Again, worth saving the hive, in my opinion, but you need to add some brood with the accompanying bees to it asap.
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