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Mostly newbie here; I had three hives for 2 years before a wild cutout infested me with SHB. Now I'm struggling to keep one hive alive. They survived the winter but they are very sluggish. No eggs, only 5 capped cells. The queen had a good laying pattern last year, and while the hive never thrived, they did well enough to survive this winter's multiple polar vortexes.

They have been on sugarwater and pollen patties for a month now; temps generally around mid 50s during the day. There is some stored honey and some stored pollen, but mostly fully drawn, empty cells.

I removed the oil trap from the bottom board, thinking that maybe the bees didn't like their environment. It is the only thing keeping the SHB in check though, so it makes me very nervous to do so.

Open cells look somewhat dirty (looks like tiny bits of beeswax inside them? Thought maybe I had a drone layer but the queen is still around); no queen cells in evidence.

Should I requeen? I'm down to very few bees at this point and I'm wondering if my queen is not laying because
a) it's too early
b) the bees are unhappy
c) she was poorly mated and is out of eggs

I'd hate to order a new queen and then have this hive suddenly be fine after all.
Experienced beekeepers: what would you do?
Thank you!
 

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Mostly newbie here; I had three hives for 2 years before a wild cutout infested me with SHB. Now I'm struggling to keep one hive alive. They survived the winter but they are very sluggish. No eggs, only 5 capped cells. The queen had a good laying pattern last year, and while the hive never thrived, they did well enough to survive this winter's multiple polar vortexes.

They have been on sugarwater and pollen patties for a month now; temps generally around mid 50s during the day. There is some stored honey and some stored pollen, but mostly fully drawn, empty cells.

I removed the oil trap from the bottom board, thinking that maybe the bees didn't like their environment. It is the only thing keeping the SHB in check though, so it makes me very nervous to do so.

Open cells look somewhat dirty (looks like tiny bits of beeswax inside them? Thought maybe I had a drone layer but the queen is still around); no queen cells in evidence.

Should I requeen? I'm down to very few bees at this point and I'm wondering if my queen is not laying because
a) it's too early
b) the bees are unhappy
c) she was poorly mated and is out of eggs

I'd hate to order a new queen and then have this hive suddenly be fine after all.
Experienced beekeepers: what would you do?
Thank you!
Sounds like you don't have enough bees to start the queen to laying. There has to be enough bees to cover the brood before she will lay. Your SHB problem is probably because you have more open comb that the bees can police. Take out some of the empty comb and replace it with undrawn foundation, and if you have another hive that is strong take a couple frames of brood complete with house bees and install them in the weak hive. also shake at least an extra frame of nurse bees in to give them an extra boost. Make sure you don't accidently get the queen from the donor hive!
 

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I would cut two pieces of Styrofoam that would fit tight from your bottom board to your cover and be 13 3/4" long. that would make insulated moveable walls. You could leave the frames your bees are clustered on and the frame with the most honey and hopefully pollen inside those walls. This small area will be easier to heat. I get the feeling that this is your only hive. If it is not and you have a frame of capped brood and adhering bees that you could move to the weak one, that would be a great idea. Reduce the entrance to about two bees wide or some mean neighbors are going to discover your weakling and rob it out. If your bees start to increase in numbers just move a wall out as required. BTW bees dismantle Styrofoam so cover them with saran wrap before installing. I kind of doubt this little group of survivors would benefit much from a new queen.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Aw, man. It is my only hive, and Wilbanks isn't shipping bees any more this year. I don't know any local beekeepers... I'm sure there are some but I don't know where to start (I'm between DC and Baltimore). Any ideas where to look? Maybe my extension service would know?

I will reduce the entrance like you said, and the hive space as well, and then cross my fingers that I can find a frame of capped brood and some extra bees to go with it. :(
 

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It's your only hive, it won't hurt to buy a queen and get her in there really quick. You may have enough bees left to get her going. Remove any empty frames and replace with foundation, as has already been said. Put that oil trap back in there to keep the shb in check. Good luck to ya.
 

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Huge assumption to think that a new queen would turn the tide. May make it worse.

I have been rereading Richard Taylor, he spoke of beekeepers if not sure of what to do should do nothing.

Have they been eating the pollen patties? This can mean something. Agree on keeping the oil in.

If you have bees and a queen, you have a chance.
 

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Aw, man. It is my only hive, and Wilbanks isn't shipping bees any more this year. I don't know any local beekeepers... I'm sure there are some but I don't know where to start (I'm between DC and Baltimore). Any ideas where to look? Maybe my extension service would know?

I will reduce the entrance like you said, and the hive space as well, and then cross my fingers that I can find a frame of capped brood and some extra bees to go with it. :(
Local extension service and Craigslist....pronto, because time is ticking away. The sooner you get more bees or a queen, the better chance you have. Also, go to you local feed store or city hall and ask if they know any beeks.
 

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Ross is right get them in a 4 fram nuc tiny enterance feed pollen patty and sugar water and hope for the best. You would be amazed at what can happen if all things are working together, i had a hive that was down to a 1 frame cluster in feb, i gave them a frame of brood with bees and now they are a stuffed deep super. Obviously im will take you a little longer to get the queen going but you have nothing to loose.
 

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For what it's worth, if you're considering reducing the internal volumn of the box, here's what I have done with no (so far!) apparent issues with the bees chewing on the insulation/styrofoam:

I made wooden follower boards exactly as deep as the box with little ears on them like a frame to hang from the frame rest. But the boards go all the up to the top edge and down to the down of the box. Each hive has two and they act as the interior walls. To take up space outside of them (between them and the "real" walls of the hive body) I inserted pieces of pink insulation foam. I made sure than the follower boards and the foam were fitting tightly to each other to make sure no SHB could use the area for hiding. I used pretty close tolerances, as well, along the descending sides of the follower board and insulation pieces.

I did this last fall in place of empty comb I didn't want to leave in for the winter so my bees have been inside boxs like this for about five and a half months without chewing on the foam. (And I am watchcing closely for that.) A suugestion I have seen here is to wrap any exposed parts with aluminum duct sealing tape (NOT duck or "duct" tape) to see the bees off the foam insulation at top and bottom. I may do that next winter if I use the same set-up.

In effect, I created a nuc box-sized space within a deep hive body. It has worked well for me. (Now I face the tricky part: getting it out before the small space prompts an over-crowding swarm, while it still remains chilly up here in northern NY so i don;t want to just yank it all out at once.) For your purposes though, in MD, I don't think it would be an issue when your little colony starts to grow bigger as it will be much warmer.

Good luck.

Enj.
 
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