Post Harvest Inspection

This weekend we checked the colonies at my house to make sure they're still doing well and have started cleaning up and repairing the honey super frames that we gave back to them after the honey harvest.

We found that the bees are finding and bringing in more honey. 

We don't expect them to bring in very much right now, as we're on the verge of hot, dry summer heat which will cause the nectar to dry up.

What we did find, though, was the colony that had the most amount of supers on it was now queen-less (again). It hasn't had a permanent queen since sometime around May. We've given it frames of eggs, and they've made emergency queens. A few weeks would go by, but no laying queen. We'd introduce a queen via queen cage. Several days would go by, they would release her, she would lay about one frame of eggs and then disappear (or was murdered). I'd give them another frame of eggs, they'd make an emergency queen, but again, no viable laying queen. 

Today, we double checked and again saw no sign of a queen in the colony. The colony's size is starting to shrink. By normal standards the colony is still holding 15+ frames of bees, but they won't be for much longer with no brood being raised to replace the aging bees who are dying off.

We found the newly mated and laying queen from one of the nucs I've been keeping on hand and introduced her into the colony via push-in-queen-cage method.

Below is a video I made a few years ago about how push in queen cages work. 

In the push in queen cage we used today, we cut out a notch and pushed in a large marshmallow. When the bees in the colony have accepted the new queen, they will eat the marshmallow and free the caged queen.

We put the queen into the cage, slid the frame back into the colony and closed them up.

Since it hadn't started raining yet,we then looked at the second nuc that I've been keeping. They are doing great. So well in fact, that they are in need of being put into a larger colony, sold or reduced. 

We took three frames containing wall-to-wall brood from the nuc and gave them to the dwindling colony and replaced them with 3 empty frames from the dwindling colony. It provides 3 frames of brood to a colony who could use the boost and gives the nuc queen room to lay more brood.

We'll check them in a week and see if they've released the queen, or if there was mutiny in the colony (again).

Comments For This Post: (4) | Post Your Comments! Hide The Comment Form
Robin says...
Date:   June 22, 2015, 6:04 am

What is their deal?    I'd think a rogue queen might do nutty stuff, but for a colony to lose that many queens in a season is really weird.   Are we talking bad luck...or something else.   And if it's something else, then what is it?

Good thing you've got the nuc.

Mark Martin says...
Date:   June 22, 2015, 8:39 am

That is odd about that hive's queen issues.

What a nice frame of brood though!

Chris (Show Me The Honey) says...
Date:   July 9, 2015, 1:23 pm

Note to self, on 7/3 I saw eggs. Not sure if it's from the queen i gave them in a push in cage, or another queen. Interestingly, the push in cage queen was released (or killed) and there was no eggs in the push in cage. They filled the cage area with nectar. Very strange.

Zach says...
Date:   July 20, 2015, 8:52 pm

Just stumbled upon your blog and saw this post.

I might have an idea as to what is happening.  Immediately, I think that you are on your way to laying workers.  Look for a sharp rise in drone brood and lots of cells with multiple eggs.  Adding the nuc might have delayed this condition, so you won't see lots of drone brood until time passes by.

     If you have already ruled this out, then I suspect the stars are simply not aligned in your favor.  Obviously, there is a reason; we just need to think like the bees!  I would take lots of notes and think hard.  You might not solve it, but if you ever see it again, you will be that much ahead of the curve.

     I personally would do a shakeout, combining your bees into other hives that are queenright, and divide your comb into the other hives.  This solves the laying worker issue quite reliably and strengthens your other hives.  Another option is to add eggs/open brood weekly until they form queen cells, signaling they will accept a new queen.  You keep your hive, but you need consistent resources and patience.

     Keep us posted, and best of luck!

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