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  Monday, 14 August 2017
  4 Replies
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I have a hive that was a split in late June, had lots of worker population, but failed to raise a queen. Truthfully. I forgot the hive was queenless and likely scrunched a nearly hatched queen.
I Discovered laying workers around late July --lots of new drones --started giving open brood every week for past 2 week cycles. This week I see young workers hatching from the brood that I gave them, but the drones are far outpacing the remaining worker population. I do see a newish hatched out queen cell, but haven't seen a queen or proper laying of brood (still lots of multiple eggs, spotty pattern, eggs on sides of cells). The overall attitude of the hive is listless, and the nectar gathering seems to have dropped considerably.
I didn't re-queen while I was giving brood, as I didn't want to lose a good queen, but I have 3 productive hives and three mated queens in nucs. Deciding to call quits it on this hive, but am looking for advice on how to best combine with stronger hives and/or with one of my nucs.
What problems can I expect if I combine in the way I've done before... with newspaper between hives? My thoughts are these: I haven't been able to find a queen as I haven't found a clean brood frame and the number of drones has made it difficult to go by size alone, so I'm concerned that I will not have removed any queen they might have raised before combining. I certainly don't want to lose a good queen to any substandard queen they raised...
Additionally, while I haven't done any mite checks since late spring (I will be doing so and treating as necessary in the next 2-3 weeks), I also haven't seen any phoretic mites, which I've ALWAYS just happened across in the past 3-4 years. Given the sheer volume of drones and drone brood you'd think I'd see some mites, right? I'd be worried about introducing lots of mites to any hive I combine this one with, so I'm considering doing an alcohol roll before combining just to be sure. I actually haven't seen a mite all summer in any hive since treating heavily in late spring. Again, no checks since the post-treatment sugar rolls, but no mites seen on bees, either.
So... any advice about how to get this hive straightened out? Should I combine in any special way, shake bees, etc?
One more item: I've also noticed some dead brood on this week's check. My assumption is that there is just not enough nurse bees to care for the brood. Is that reasonable-- that the drones are just putting too much stress on the colony's resources and larvae are being abandoned? What I found were dried/shriveled larvae. None were putrefied as far as I could tell. It appears that they died before capping. Again, the capped brood that's coming up is spotty and, of course, all drone.
4 years ago
At this late stage I'd just let it ride and see if the queen returns mated and rights the hive. Might throw another frame of brood at it to ensure enough workers for the returning queen. That's a hard call on more resources at it but definite I'd let it ride for few weeks then open it up and decide what to do. If you've got capped worker brood then great and if not the hive is basically all drones by then anyway- easy to brush them off and distribute the comb where you want or let the hive die out, mouse guard to winter then put a nuc in it come spring.
4 years ago
At this point of the season, I would encourage you to not make a strong hive weaker by removing brood.. It is time to start thinking about Winter bees....meaning that the bees that emerge now and during the next 21 days are the bees that will be nursing the brood destined to become winter bees. The nectar flow should be ending within the next few weeks and subsequently, brood rearing will decrease.
If the bees that are in the hive and emerging all drone then the hive is probably lost. Merging the hive of drone brood/bees will do nothing to support the stronger hive since the drones perform no internal housekeeping or brood management work.
Mite checks are best performed by culling workers from frames of brood. If you have none then the results of the mite check will not necessarily reflect the actual mite load or issue.
But, mite drift to the other hive should be a consideration.
Also, if the hive is as weak as it appears then it may be a candidate for fall robbing. If this occurs then the robbing bees risk bringing back to their hives any latent disease or transferring mites to their own hive.
This opinion is of course based on your description.
4 years ago
I thank you both for your advice. I have several other hives that (esp compared to last August) seem in really good shape, so I definitely want to strengthen, rather than weaken, hives. The honey isn't flowing as fast as it seemed it would, and we're into goldenrod now (I'm at 1500') so I want to keep my stronger hives collecting nectar.
The other issue that I have is of a practical nature-- I am transitioning to all mediums, and the hive in question is all medium boxes. My best broods are mostly in deeps, still. As a result, I have limited number of hives that are producing large amounts of brood in mediums, and I'm disinclined to take those frames. Obviously, I can't put deeps in without a major shakeup of the problem hive -spacers and burr comb and such.
It sounds like I should let whatever brood is in there hatch out, distribute honey for fall feeding (before the weakened hive starts getting robbed), and lock it up from mice and wax moth until spring.
DRONE QUESTION: Should I limit the amount of drone being produced at this time of year by freezing the frames or should I let them hatch out so the comb stays free of organic material through winter storage? The point being, if there are mites in this hive, it seems like allowing all this drone to hatch will result in a massive release of mites to the other hives. I will do a count this week so I know where that stands.
DEAD LARVAE QUESTION: Am I correct in assuming that the spotty dead brood is a result of limited young nurse bees? They are not gooey, and just seem to be darker larvae that have died at several stages before capping. I had an inspection in July that showed no apparent disease, and this is the only hive where I'm seeing such an issue.

Thanks again!
4 years ago
Brief update:

Never was able to get a queen raised, and gave up several weeks ago. Didn't have time to follow up, and of course all the drones ate nearly all the honey in the hive. Writing the hive off...

...however, a followup question: As I pull dead drones from what remains in the comb (boy, the combs are all scrubbed clean except for some spotty brood die-outs), I am not seeing any mites at all. The hive was loaded with workers before the drones took over. Shouldn't I see SOME varroa on dead, unemerged drones? Or do varroa get smart and move on to a healthy hive?

Incidentally, I hope to do some fall mite counts soon, but I haven't seen a single phoretic mite all summer. Am I insane? I still expect to treat but, in the past 4 years, in hives with mite loads I always noticed a few hitchhikers...

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