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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I realize there may be no clear answer to this question, but what is the thinking on hive temperament after going queenless? I did some searching but didn't really find anything.

Three weeks ago I could work our hive with just a veil and the bees really didn't even seem to notice I was there. Just went about their business and let me inspect with no interference. Last week I saw a single supersedure cell on a frame in the upper box while taking a quick look at a couple of frames and wondered if the queen was gone or in trouble. Didn't look for her or check the lower box at all. As of three days ago, I can't go within 5 feet of the darn hive without having very angry bees shoot out at me with the clear intent to inflict pain. Got a nice one on my forehead this morning when I bent over to pick something up to the side of the hive and several feet away. It was early and cool, and no bees were even flying yet, but this one wanted me so bad it just shot out and hit me. Of course, I can only assume this hive in now queenless, but the queen cell and change of behavior seem to lead that way.

How long does it take them to cool down when they get a queen again?
 

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They have been demoralized.

Light up your smoker, give them a lot of cool thick smoke, pull out a frame and insert a frame that has all stages of brood. ( eggs are important.)
Give them a few days to settle down.
Ernie
 

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Some folks might find it a bit weird to hear talk of bees "morale" but beekeepers are not that uncomfortable with the idea.

Nothing makes bees "happier" than a honey flow. They really seem to love their queen, as well.

When a honey flow abruptly ends, they turn into *****es from hell. If they get to robbing, they are downright evil.

Queenlessness can be expressed by a certain edginess, but usually it winds down to discouragement and finally they just give up.

To someone who feels for them, it's really sad.
 

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As the saying goes at our house - " If momma aint happy, aint nobody happy" :D (no I'm not the momma).

Your screen name and your paint job make your success of special interest around here. Perhaps too much browsing through the hive has lead to the queen issue but then what new beek can resist looking. If I recall these bees were not a purchased package of "good breeding" or were they?
 

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This is only a supposition, that said, let us presume that the supercedure cell was the only one in the hive and that the original queen died. While replacing the frames the sole supercedure cell is injured, the results ..... Now that would make the whole hive very angry for quite a while. Look for scratch marks on the front of your troublesome hive. This sounds more like a skunk problem to me than anything else. OMTCW
 

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Honey bees are a social creature by nature. They have a social structure within the hive. The queen is the head of that structure because she keeps the hive in cohesion with her pheremones.
When that cohesion is gone, the social structure becomes chaotic at best. Bees are unable to cope this way. They need a matriarch to give them the direction they need. Without her, business as usual can not go on.

Smoke them and check on that cell. Did you damage it?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Thank you everyone, for the thoughtful responses. I was not near a computer for a couple of days, then came back to find much to think about. Appreciate it. I'm thinking we'll give it 2-3 weeks, then check for eggs and brood to see if we've got a queen. I can probably get a queen locally if needed, or possibly combine a swarm in on top of them.

Naturegoods, I did consider the fact that going into the hive may have led to this situation. You're right about the temptation for new keepers to explore. We'd be looking every day if it was practical. We've opened it three times in the four weeks we've had it, so probably not too bad as far as newbies go. Never know if we did in the queen, but we sure hope not. We got the bees and hive from an elderly gentleman who had let a keeper place them in his yard many years ago. They've been left on their own for some time though, after the keeper abandoned them. The gentleman isn't sure, but believes it's been somewhere between two and five years since anyone has tended the hive. He had two, and another 4H family nearby got the other.

The name and paint scheme was a collaboration between my daughter and myself. I suggested the cow pattern so we'd have something different but she wasn't too keen on the idea, then decided it would be OK if the background was pink, which is her favorite color. Whenever we harvest our first honey, "Pink Cow" is the name she's chosen for the label.
 

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When that cohesion is gone, the social structure becomes chaotic at best. Bees are unable to cope this way. They need a matriarch to give them the direction they need. Without her, business as usual can not go on.
Sounds like my house :D

Opened three times in four weeks - you are doing better than most new beeks :thumbsup: I see you have already expanded a bit with the nuc. Three weeks may be a bit long to wait if they are queenless and have been for a while. If their aggressive attitude outside the hive continues you'll need a new queen anyways.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
We looked in on this hive the other day and I just realized I hadn't updated here, so....

Cover off, second frame pulled, big bright healthy-looking queen scampering about. OK, they took care of that problem. Still waiting to exhale though because upon further inspection we found not a single cell of brood, which in hindsight should not have been surprising, I guess. Since we still had not been able to remove the rest of the old frames with poor comb, we yanked four more of them and replaced with new ones containing RiteCell in the hope they would build some nice stuff since they know they need to provide laying space. Now we are just hoping the queen got mated and starts doing her thing very quickly since the hive does not have a great number of bees anyway, and with the expected die-off due to the lack of brood we worry the population might get dangerously low. Fingers firmly crossed!
 

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Re: What makes a queenless hive so nasty?

High unemployment. Lots of bees with no brood to care for can make the group demoralized and defensive. Some open brood would give them hope and keep more bees busy and not after you.
 

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QMP (Queen Mandibular Pheromone) is literally the opiate of the masses in a colony. The queen shares it with her retinue who share it out to the bees around them who share it with others. This spread it quickly throughout the hive by trophallaxis (sharing of food). This gives them all a sense of well being and the hive being right with the world. If it is gone it sets off all kinds of different behavior, including fanning (hoping a queen will smell it and show up) queen rearing, defensivness etc.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
New Update:

Things are looking very good now and we're feeling MUCH better. Just closed up the hive after checking to see if we have a laying queen, and found lots to cheer us up about the health of this hive.

Two weeks ago, when we found it entirely without brood we swapped in some new frames in order to get rid of more of the originals which had lost their foundation long ago and had very old comb built at angles. We wanted to keep our intrusion to a minimum since we saw the new queen last time so we only looked at the top box, and just half of the frames on one side of it. We saw that two of the new frames had been drawn out and well filled with capped brood with the honey and pollen above. Just what we were hoping for!! The others looked good too, the outside frame with just honey, nectar and pollen, and the others with a good mix.

The number of bees was at its lowest point yet, as we seem to be in the midst of the die-off we expected after losing the queen and finding no brood last time we looked. Looks like they are doing all they can to take care of that though, so we'll be watching for the population to grow as hatching starts.
 
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