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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I went out to check some hives today. With the warm weather, the bees are building up early and I have had to make sure that they have plenty to eat as flowers have not started blooming yet.

I opened one hive (double deep). It has a marked Russian queen. Lots of bees, maybe 8 frames of bees total. I started to go through the top deep, frame by frame. I found 4 frames of brood and then I find the queen. She is moving slowly, checking out cells, etc. But she is not marked. "Ok" I think, maybe the paint wore off or I forgot that she wasn't marked.

I also find four swarm cells hanging off of two frames in the top deep! They were huge. One was completely capped off - the others were close to it. All had queen larvae in them. My bees have some capped drone brood, but there isn't a drone flying yet around here. Plus, with the relatively low numbers of bees in the hive, I am certain I found them all - so I cut them. I am hoping that I at least delayed them until the drones appear.

I pull the top deep off (intending to reverse the hive bodies to give the queen more room and maybe stop the swarming urge) and start going through the bottom deep. There I find 3 more frames of brood.......wait for it....and my marked queen!

So I have two queens, two brood nests and swarm cells in this hive. What is going on with this? I double checked the 'new' queen to make sure that she wasn't a virgin. I am certain she is not (I have screwed up enough times and killed queens accidentally that I have seen a LOT of virgin queens). She moved around the frame slowly, checked out cells, had a 'court', etc.

I wasn't sure what to do, so I did the following: I had a dead out in the same yard, so I took the 'new' queen and her entire brood nest and hived her in the deadout. This allowed me to open up the hive above the old queen with some drawn comb. The 'new' queen now has a whole hive to herself.

My reasoning is as follows:

1. If I am wrong about her being mated and the 'new' queen is not laying, then all I have done is lost some brood. I have also delayed or possibly stopped a swarm. Also, if she was to supercede the old queen and she hasn't mated - I have at least saved my 'old' hive for the time being.

2. If she is laying (as I think), I have new started hive. I have also either delayed or stopped the original hive from swarming.

3. If she is laying but was to supercede the old queen, then the old queen will die - but, the new queen will just be in a new location - and maybe the 'old' hive will be able to raise another queen.

To be honest, once I saw all of that, I was flying by the seat of my pants and this was the best that I could come up with. Any thoughts?

Mike
 

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I would have done the same with the exception of moving the old queen instead of the new queen. Actually for my area would have taken and made splits from both deeps (moving both queens) and ended up with four hives.
 

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It would be intereszting to know the circumstances that would allow 2 queens to lay at the same time with no infighting unless you are looking at superceedure cells as opposed to swarm cells but still those existing queen cells should have already been destroyed by the hatching queen.
Barry
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
G3

I sure did. Upper and lower - both open.

Mike
 

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If you think they were getting ready to supercede the old queen, maybe you could have done better by placing the queen cells in the upper broodnest to let them emerge (and have the first one out eliminate the others) You could have done away with the old, marked queen. You could still have divided the hive into two.
Another possibility would have been to keep the hive as one and manage it as a two queen hive, following the methods and techniques recommended by C.L.Farrar as published in the American Bee Journal (vol108, nos. 3-10, 1968). I wonder if his system ever gained acceptance?
 

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tyro writes:
I was flying by the seat of my pants

tecumseh:
you are no longer a novice beekeeper... once you have arrived flying by the seat of your pants is what we do.

as I have suggested before double queen hives are likely much more evident than some beekeepers seem to think. but who goes to the pains of looking for number 2 when everything you have read or know says there is only one?

as to cause.. my guess would be a long extended and narrow brood patch with variation in weather enough to cause the formation of two different clusters. I would guess this long and narrow cluster formed (given your description) in a vertical direction. the same kind of thing can happen (or at least I have seen something of the same thing here) in the horizontal direction.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
G3 - no queen excluder. I don't use them.

efmesch - the cells were swarm cells. They were all hanging off of the very bottom of the bottom bar. There were no supercedure cells. I decided to cut them (and would have cut supercedure cells in this case as well) because there are no drones that a newly emerged queen could mate with. There likely won't be any drones for several weeks yet (until the commercial bees come back). I do have drone cells in a number of my hives, but I thought of two problems:

1. If we get a cold spell (meaning below freezing temps for an extended period - which is not uncommon for us even this time of year), they won't be able to mate anyway.

2. As mine are the only bees in town (only 2 hives in that yard with drone cells - one of them producing the queen), I thought that the likelihood of a good mating was probably pretty low. So I decided the 'bird in hand' (mated queens) were more valuable than the potential virgins.

tec - HA! and here I assumed that one day, with enough experience, I might actually get to the point where I know what I am doing! I think you are right about the weather playing a factor in all of this. It has been very strange up here. Dandelions bloomed this weekend - a month early by my records. The upper cluster did form in a vertical direction. I would call the lower cluster more of a 'typical' cluster.
 

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You made the decision--and most probably the best one, considering the facts at hand and the weather (which is out of your hand).
I hope we'll get progress reports as the season develops.:cool:
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
efmesch - absolutely. In fact, I am planning on checking that hive this Friday to see if the queen is laying. Hopefully, she is and I won't have to scramble for an emergency queen!

Mike
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I had a thought by way of explaining what is going on in this hive and am hoping for some feedback:

Is it possible that this sort of circumstance is the result of the hive attempting to swarm late in the season? If the hive begins swarm preparations (raising the queen, etc.) - but it suddenly gets cold (which could prevent the swarm from leaving) and stays cold, would the hive essentially maintain that state until conditions improve in the spring (thereby creating two separate brood nests with independent queens)? The idea being that they will swarm as soon as the spring comes.

This might also explain the presence of swarm cells - sort of a 're-try'.

BTW - I am going to check the new hive today for eggs.
 

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Tyro asks:
"Is it possible that this sort of circumstance is the result of the hive attempting to swarm late in the season?"
Efmesch says: 1. Anything is possible But,
2. If my geography isn't way off, it seems highly unlikely that in North Dakota you are "late" in the swarming season. More likely, the swarming season hasn't yet begun.
In other words, I can't offer any good explanation for the queen raising behavior.
:confused: Maybe someone else can help along, preferably, someone from up north.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
efmesch,

You are correct in your geography - but I was referring to a swarm forming LAST season, say around last October and not being able to leave.

Mike
 

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Ef I think he means a late swarm last fall. The old queen was ready to swarm and then turned off too cold for her to leave the hive, this trapped inside and one of the new queens making it out. But then that brings up another twist, it would have been warm enough for the virgin to take a mating flight.

Wonder if a small swarm could have moved into the top entrance?
 

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Gotcha.
Your explanation could handle the reason for two queens, But why the swarm cells now?
Obviously, they shouldn't be from before the winter (unless they were outside of the cluster and froze). Have they produced any virgin queens yet or maybe you'll just have to wait several more days to find out if they are viable swarm cells. :?:
 

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we all are familiar with the nature of swarming, and the basic causes of swarming---lack of egg laying space due to brood taking up all space, nectar plugging the brood chambers, crowding in the brood nest ...irregardless of last falls events, would think that cold would have "reset " the swarm impulse. I am thinking, so early in your season, conditions would not be present for a few more weeks for the scenario describes to occur or am I mistaken?
Barry
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I checked today. The 'new' queen must have been a dud. She isn't in the hive that I split off anymore. There also aren't any eggs and they are pulling supercedure cells. If it was a late attempt at swarming (G3 - you got my meaning right), then she must not have mated very well.

Barry - you are correct, it is too early to swarm here. There are no drones and very little has started blooming (crocus, some dandelion). Also, I wouldn't have called the hive crowded either. Both brood nests seemed to still have some room (empty frames on either side).

Mike
 

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a snip...
My bees have some capped drone brood,

tecumseh:
according to Dr Larry Conners you may need not have emerged and fully mature drones. By the calendar when you begin rearing queen cells you should look to see if you have purple eyed pupae and then by the time you have an emerged queen ready to fly and mate the drones will also be ready.
 
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