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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Today is a pretty nice day here--in the mid-50's and had the day off, so I took my hive apart for the first real inspection of the year. It has been really nice here lately with a day or two reaching 60 and sunny all day. Here is what I found. If you could give me some suggestions on what to do next, that would be great.

I have two deeps and only one hive. The top deep has a lot of honey still on the frames, especially on the outside frames, and is heavy. However nearer the center, there are a few frames with some honey but mostly empty cells. I did find one frame with a dozen or so drone cells in the making. The bottom deep was mostly empty cells/frames where honey was consumed and I assume eggs hatched over the winter.

I found almost no worker cells and just those few drone cells and could not find the queen, although that is likely because of my inexperience and not because she wasn't home. However I did find about 5 or so supercedure cells under construction.

One thing I found interesting was on one frame in the bottom super in one corner on both sides of the frame, several cells were out of norm...they were quite a bit bigger and deformed. Is this normal? Of course I panic and think they've got some deadly disease. Also there were a LOT of dead bees on the bottom board...normal or not?

I gave them a pollen patty to help encourage brood production. There are flowers and trees blooming here so there is plenty of pollen to find, but I didn't notice any in the hive. In the words of Calvin of "Calvin and Hobbes" fame, "to the untrained eye of the ignorant layman..." the bees seems healthy. There are a lot of them.

Thanks for your help and input. It's appreciated more than you know.
Dave
 

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Sounds to me like you have no queen. I'm guessing the "deformed" cells are queen cups--look up some pics. If there is no queen to lay fertile eggs in those cups then there is no chance to get a queen. Are the supercedure cells closed? If you saw absolutely no evidence of brood other than drone cells then I'd bet those supercedure cells will not produce a queen. Get a new queen.

Lots of dead bees. Could be they are succumbing to mite collapse. What are your mite levels? Also could just be that the work force as a whole is old and is dying out.
 

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I haven't checked my mite levels in a while. I'll get on that right away.

If I introduce a new queen, and the old one is still there, do they duke it out in a "survival of the fittest" contest, or does one just leave?
Thanks for your insight. i was afraid of this.
Dave
 

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If you introduce a new queen and one is present they usually kill the new queen while still in the cage. Not sure what your weather is like there but I'd bet that if there is no brood to be seen there is no queen. Still getting cold here but my girls have started brood production again.

If you have a lot of mites do a quick formic acid treatment (Mite Away) before introducing the new queen. Otherwise the mites might just destroy the new brood (assume your temps are between 50-80F).
 

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It's very common at the end of winter ot have many dead bees on the bottom board. In fact, the reason tha the small opening on an entrance reducer is installed with the opening up instead of down is to thatt he opening is not as likely to be blocked by the dead bees that accumulate on the bottom board over winter.

It's even more common for new beekeepers to have trouble finding the queen when there are lots of bees. Don't worry about it.

It sounds as if the bees are in the process of superceding the old queen.

Trust them.

They'll know long before you do that the queen needs to be replaced, and arrange for that replacement.
Letting them supercede is likely to give you as good or better a queen as you would buy...and at least half of the new queens genes will be from local bees which are much more likely to be locally adapted than any "bought in" queens from far away.

You have lots of bees.
You have surplus stores of honey, and some empty-cell frames for the queen to lay in and little/no danger of swarming for a week or more.
You have a pollen flow in progress that will provide better nutrition for brood production than any.

There is nothing in what you described that indicates a mite problem.

If you have another box of comb or foundation, I'd put it on, but wouldn't sweat it if you don't...if the queen isn't laying atm more empty cells will be coming available for when she (or her supercedure replacement) starts laying as sealed brood emerges.

Even if you don't NEED the room, and extra box of drawn comb is NEVER a bad thing to have around.

Have fun.


BTW, I'm a western Washington native, and I'm moving to Tumwater in May from the east coast.
I'll be starting several new colonies form nucs as well as putting out swarm traps.
You're welcome to come see what I do and why if you like
 

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It's very common at the end of winter ot have many dead bees on the bottom board. In fact, the reason tha the small opening on an entrance reducer is installed with the opening up instead of down is to thatt he opening is not as likely to be blocked by the dead bees that accumulate on the bottom board over winter.
In New York, yes. But in areas w/ mild winters not so much (again, depends on his winters--I'm assuming they are mild). Even here, the only time I have large #s on my bottom boards is when they succumb to cold and/or experience rapid die off due to mite damage (combined w/ the cold) in Dec.

Its even more common for new beekeepers to have trouble finding the queen when there are lots of bees. Don't worry about it.

It sounds as if the bees are in the process of superceding the old queen.
True. But if weather is mild there and there is no sign of brood whatsoever then the queen may be gone. If the supercedure cells have viable female immatures in them developing into queens I'd also expect to see some capped worker brood from the same clutch of eggs. If there is nothing but a few drone cells then I suspect a laying worker. Also, w/out a queen they tend to not cluster as tightly and die off faster as well (from what I've read but have not had the occasion to observe).

know long before you do that the queen needs to be replaced, and arrange for that replacement.
Letting them supercede is likely to give you as good or better a queen as you would buy...and at least half of the new queens genes will be from local bees which are much more likely to be locally adapted than any "bought in" queens from far away.
I generally agree w/ this. My only worry would be, here anyway, a lack of drones to mate w/ a newly raised queen. Again, depends on his area. With trees blooming I'd suspect there are some local hives producing a few drones already.

You have lots of bees.
You have surplus stores of honey, and some empty-cell frames for the queen to lay in and little/no danger of swarming for a week or more.
You have a pollen flow in progress that will provide better nutrition for brood production than any.

There is nothing in what you described that indicates a mite problem.
Probably not, but always a culprit so don't slack on monitoring. The only thing that really indicates an issue is the lack of brood--queen issue. Beregondo seems to already know the climate of your area, and I agree that it is always wise to trust the bees first, so I'd give them a few weeks w/ the supercedure cells to see what happens (re-reading your original post you mention a few worker cells so that is a good sign). Queens will be available all spring.

Do you want a second hive--always good? If it were me I'd hedge by ordering a new package/nuc. That way it they dwindle down due to the supercedure cells not working out you still have a robust back-up plan (or, if you know someone local, barter for a frame or two of eggs).

I worried about a LOT of things my first year that turned out to be non-issues, so this may be the case here.
 

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Finding lots of bees on the bottom board is common. More common on weaker hives though, as you can imagine. More bees died over winter and there were less bees to carry off the dead. I went through some of mine yesterday. Bottom boards of strong hives were clean while I scraped 1/2" of dead bees off of the weaker hives bottom board.

They all had brood. The weaker ones had brood on only a frame or two while one had 8 frames of brood and even had drone cells capped, which for me is pretty early. I'll be needing to use that one to equalize the weaker ones or it will be on its way to early swarming.

Having lots of bees (at least 6 frames?) and no brood at this time of year around here would worry me. I would be moving some eggs and brood into that hive if I had them.
 

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Good point beedeetee. If it is a weak hive you may want to let it go and see what happens. I had one last year that almost succumbed to mites and had a baseball size broodnest come spring. I threw them in an nuc last March and am heading out now to move them back into a full hive. They are going gangbusters this year w/ barely a mite to be seen.

The hygenic back up package I ordered last year for this hive died this winter from mites--obviously not hygenic, but I knew that when ordering the cheap GA package.

Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
If it is a weak hive you may want to let it go and see what happens.

I like the sound of that. I've tried all day to contact the guy who lives locally who sold me these bees and he dodged two phone calls and two texts:pinch: I'll check them in week or the next nice day after that and see if it looks differently. A local bee guy who has a great reputation in the beekeeper association here said that if the hive is quiet, then there is probably a queen, and if it's noisy then there is a good chance there isn't a queen. It's very quiet out there. Maybe I'm in luck.

Thanks for your help. I really appreciate it.
Dave
 

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FWIW, I just got done going through my hives and my carni broodnest appeared to have mostly drone brood. It is growing in size so I know this is not the case (and it is quiet and calm too). What I noticed is that a lot of the comb the broodnest had moved up into was thinner than standard broodnest comb--like they tore down some of the wax to use elsewhere after eating the honey. Anyway, what I suspect is that when the queen started laying in there the workers re-built the sides while capping to make the cells long enough. These cells protruding out of the thinner comb look similar to drone cells but are not quite as large. At first look it looks like drones though. Last fall this box was all full of capped honey so it is interesting that all the comb is wavy, wonky, and thinned out now.

That survivor nuc I moved into their new hive was even bigger than I thought. Glad I got them moved.

If the hive is quiet and calm when you work it then chances are they are fine.
 

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In my experience they are only noisy for the first day or so after they lose their queen (fanning to find her?). After that they can get mean or very quiet. I found a hive today that has an average amount of bees for me (8 frames) but no brood. Then I found a virgin queen walking around. I don't know where they got her, but it was probably last fall. I found a frame of eggs and larva to give them. I do have some hives with capped drone brood. I saw a couple of drones walking around, so hopefully they can raise a new one and she can get mated. This is pretty early for me. I probably should have killed the virgin, but I left her. We will see what happens.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Reintroduced a queen and a nuc to the hive to reinvigorate it. Did it last night...geez it's difficult doing this beekeeping stuff in the dark. Hopefully tomorrow it will quit raining long enough to check on them.
 
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