No queen before winter, what can I do?

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kanders
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No queen before winter, what can I do?

Unread post by kanders » September 26th, 2016, 9:27 am

I'm new to this forum and hope I can get some advice, I started a new hive here in central Alberta and things seemed to go quite well for the first while. I pretty much handled things on my own with a little advice from the folks at the Bee Maid coop (where I purchased the bees). I ended up being away quite a bit this summer and ended up with my hive swarming. I thought everything was ok since the hive seemed to be "queen right" after the swarm occurrence but after checking the hive a few days ago have found that there is no queen and no brood. The population still seems ok and there is a box full of capped honey but all brood cells are empty and I am guessing that the hive will just die of old age with no new brood being produced. I'm just not sure what to do next. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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Allen Dick
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Re: No queen before winter, what can I do?

Unread post by Allen Dick » September 26th, 2016, 10:37 am

By this date, about a quarter of queens may have stopped laying, so you may actually have a queen and won't know without a very careful inspection. Can't say for sure. If your hive weighs 120 pounds or more, chances are it is okay. YMMV.

At any rate, it is too late to requeen IMO, and your best bet is to wrap them and let them be or combine them with a hive that has a queen.
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Re: No queen before winter, what can I do?

Unread post by BadBeeKeeper » September 26th, 2016, 10:52 am

Do you know how long it has been since the hive swarmed?

Are you *sure* there is no queen at all? Could there be a recently mated, or unmated queen in there, or a queen that has gone into shutdown mode due to the imminent onset of Winter? (I don't know what your weather is like.)

If there is truly no queen there, or an unmated queen with little hope of *getting* mated at this time of year, see if there is someone near you who, like me, is about to combine some hives/nucs and will have one or more extra queens that will be disposed of- he/she may be willing to let you have one if it was just going to be killed anyway. (I will be killing off a number of queens, simply because I made sure I had extras in case of need, and now do not need them.)

You need to be absolutely sure there is not a queen in there, that maybe has shut down for the winter...because if that is the case and you introduce another queen you will have a problem.

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Re: No queen before winter, what can I do?

Unread post by kanders » September 26th, 2016, 11:37 am

I'm not 100% sure there is no queen but all the frames in the bottom box with brood cells (dark colored) are empty (although a lot of the empty cells are half full of a dark brown substance). The second box from the bottom is full of capped honey and quite heavy. I only have one hive so I can't combine with another one.A couple of weeks ago I did capture what I think was my departed swarm at an abandoned farm yard next to my property but they had already built a fairly large hive under a piece of plywood close to the ground. While trying to move them into a spare box I had, the honeycomb structure was damaged quite substantially and I may not have captured the queen in the process. 2 days ago I combined the 2 hives hoping that the queen was present in the "wild" hive but the way the comb was formed it is nearly impossible to see between the combs. Anyway, we have a couple of nice sunny days here and I will have another look inside to see how they're getting along.

My thoughts were that if there is no queen and they aren't going to survive the winter then I might as well take off the honey. Just not sure what direction to go.

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Re: No queen before winter, what can I do?

Unread post by Allen Dick » September 26th, 2016, 12:13 pm

half full of a dark brown substance)
Can you find out what that substance is?
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Re: No queen before winter, what can I do?

Unread post by kanders » September 26th, 2016, 12:25 pm

It's only about 10% to 20% of the empty cells. The rest are completely empty. I have no clue what it is, I can try to take pictures when I get back into there.

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Re: No queen before winter, what can I do?

Unread post by Allen Dick » September 26th, 2016, 12:27 pm

Pictures would help. Also take a toothpick and pull some out. Taste it.
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Re: No queen before winter, what can I do?

Unread post by kanders » September 26th, 2016, 12:52 pm

Ummmm......taste it? I've seen Caddy Shack but I'm not as bold as Bill Murray!

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Re: No queen before winter, what can I do?

Unread post by BadBeeKeeper » September 26th, 2016, 7:56 pm

The second box from the bottom is full of capped honey and quite heavy.
What configuration do you run? Deeps? Mediums? 8 frame or 10 frame?

I run double deeps, mostly (occasionally triples).

I went thru one hive today, top deep packed with honey, bottom not so much, and no brood. I finally found the queen on the third to last frame. She's there, just not brooding right now.

Not a good idea to make combines without knowing queen status.

You'll need to search to find the queen...but if she isn't there it's probably a moot point anyway. Main thing is to make sure they are ready for Winter- if you have empty frames, and the weather is suitable, feed as much as they'll take and store.

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Re: No queen before winter, what can I do?

Unread post by Allen Dick » September 26th, 2016, 9:05 pm

Not a good idea to make combines without knowing queen status.
That is what they say, but if combining hives and I have no favourite queen in any of the two or three being combined, I don't bother looking and it always works out.

The only concern combining at the end of the season is to be sure the bees are not robbing much and seem to be flying on a nice day with nectar coming in so there is no risk of fighting.
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Re: No queen before winter, what can I do?

Unread post by kanders » September 26th, 2016, 10:40 pm

Thanks for all the replies, I have so much to learn about this bee stuff. So I went into the hive this afternoon since it was a nice day and the bees were busy. I did see a few bee battles on the porch in front of the hive before I opened it up which really alarmed me, I thought I had really messed up. After going to get my bee suit on and get my tools, I moved in closer to the front of the hive but didn't witness any more skirmishes. After removing the cover, I used some smoke to push the bees down to the original boxes and removed the pieces of wild comb which I had put in a few days earlier with the additional boxes to combine the hives. There was a little honey in the wild comb but no brood. So at this point I have removed the 2 upper boxes and it's back to 2 lower brood boxes. Before putting the cover back on I decided to check the second box (from the bottom on the original hive) which I didn't check a few days ago and guess what I saw.....although I didn't find the queen, there was some brood and even a couple that I saw emerging. Maybe all my panic was for nothing.

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Re: No queen before winter, what can I do?

Unread post by kanders » September 26th, 2016, 11:27 pm

[quote][/quote]What configuration do you run? Deeps? Mediums? 8 frame or 10 frame?

Badbeekeeper, I run deeps with 10 frames and I had 4 boxes high (if that's what you're asking), I'm not sure of all the terminology. I removed the 2 top honey supers and plan on wintering 2 boxes which I think is the norm in our area.

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Re: No queen before winter, what can I do?

Unread post by BadBeeKeeper » September 27th, 2016, 6:05 am

kanders wrote:I run deeps with 10 frames and I had 4 boxes high (if that's what you're asking), I'm not sure of all the terminology. I removed the 2 top honey supers and plan on wintering 2 boxes which I think is the norm in our area.
Yep, that's what I was asking. I was trying to figure out how many brood boxes you had. Sometimes things can get confusing when different people use the same terms to mean different things. A lot of people differentiate deeps as 'hive bodies' or 'brood boxes', and medium or short boxes are 'supers' which are only for honey...and then *some* people call all boxes 'supers' without regard for whether is is a deep, medium or short, and some people run with all medium boxes for both brood and as supers. So, when you said
The second box from the bottom is full of capped honey and quite heavy.
I wasn't sure how many boxes you were using for brood boxes.

Generally, when we are talking about things like this (brood/queen stuff) you can disregard how ever many supers you might have on, don't even count them. I occasionally have three or even four deep brood boxes so there will be 'middle' or a 'second from the bottom' brood box.

So, if I have the right picture now, you had two (medium?) supers on top of two deep brood boxes/hive bodies; and the top deep is full of honey- that's a good thing, every frame in that box should be packed with honey and that is what will get them through the Winter. They did their thing the way they are supposed to...well, the way you *want* them to...packed it up solid and moved themselves down below.

I've had hives do it bassackwards and then I have to swap the boxes so that the Winter stores are on top.

It sounds like everything is going the way it should be, and you are all set, no reason to worry...well, not about *that*, anyway.

The next question is "Did you treat for mites?"

I'm guessing that if you were away and otherwise occupied, you didn't do any mite counts and you have no idea what the status is on that.

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Re: No queen before winter, what can I do?

Unread post by kanders » September 27th, 2016, 8:48 pm

I didn't do a count but I put the Apivar strips in anyway, I figure it can't hurt.

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Re: No queen before winter, what can I do?

Unread post by BadBeeKeeper » September 27th, 2016, 9:03 pm

kanders wrote:I didn't do a count but I put the Apivar strips in anyway, I figure it can't hurt.
Good move. :thumbsup:

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Re: No queen before winter, what can I do?

Unread post by BadBeeKeeper » September 29th, 2016, 5:31 pm

Allen Dick wrote:By this date, about a quarter of queens may have stopped laying, so you may actually have a queen and won't know without a very careful inspection.
Interesting, I went through a number of hives today and all had brood- capped, larvae and new eggs. Only the one I went through the other day had no brood.

Also strange, the only hive that made any extra honey was the one that was a dink going into last Winter, that I didn't think would survive. It had hardly any stores, and I combined another dink (that wasn't much better off) with it and tossed an extra super full of honey on it just for giggles. The queen had laid up in it in the Spring so I put an excluder under it and left it. It's full.

None of the other hives filled supers, and some are a little light on what they'll need for Winter. :headscratch: The ones I thought would do well didn't, and the one I thought would die did well.

And I have 3 half hives and 3 leftover nucs that I just left and basically ignored that are stuffed with bees and will need to be combined somehow. I'll go through them tomorrow and see how many full frames have honey, and how many full hives can be assembled out of them. I also have some full supers from last year that never got extracted if any need extra Winter stores. Maybe someday I'll get my sh...stuff together and not be such a bad beekeeper.

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