Outward Signs of Queenless Hive

Discussion in 'Beekeeping 101' started by Larus, Mar 14, 2012.

  1. Larus

    Larus New Member

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    Last Saturday was the first day in a long streak of sunny days with unseasonably high temperatures (it got up to 62 dF, I think). I opened my hive and pulled out some frames from the topmost deep for the first time in 2012. Almost all frames in the top deep were fully or partially filled with capped honey - 2 frames full of capped honey wall to wall, and several others partially full. Bees were very active, but I saw only one forager with a confirmed pollen load.
    There was one frame where I saw scattered cells of capped brood in one of the corners (the rest of the frame was capped or uncapped honey). In that corner there was also a massive pile-up of bees - not just one spread-out layer, but bees crawling on top of each other. I didn't see any uncapped brood or eggs, and I didn't want to shake off the bees because the wind was too high. Because of the high winds I also didn't inspect the two other deep boxes in the hive.
    I am concerned about the scatter of capped brood, how little of it there was, and that I didn't see any eggs or open brood (granted that I didn't look very carefully or do a full inspection of the hive). This hive wasn't a booming hive in the fall, but managed to survive the winter, and I'd hate for the queen to fail now. I don't have the time to do a thorough inspection of the hive until the weekend after next, and I don't want to tear apart the hive every other day just because I am anxiety-prone. But I may have time to go and do some quick observations of the hive without opening it - activity levels, temperament and behavior of the bees, how many foragers are brining in pollen, e.t.c. Are there any signs I can look for as evidence that the hive is queenright or is not? I've heard that you can tell if a hive is queenless just by how the bees are behaving, but so far I have never observed the behavior.
    Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.
     
  2. PerryBee

    PerryBee New Member

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    If you see pollen being brought into the hive, the odds are good that all is well. Bees are not motivated (usually) to forage and collect pollen when they are queenless.
    My instinct would be to leave them alone until you have the time to do a thorough check, be it the weekend after next or.....?
     

  3. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    Sounds like it was too cold/windy when you went into the hive. that's why the bees were clustered on top of each other, with few foragers venturing out. You say you went into the hive on the first day of your warm weather streak, and it was windy.
    Some queens get started laying heavily a bit later than others, and you don't necessarily want a bunch of brood demanding food when there isn't much pollen out there available yet.
    Give it another 2 weeks and some warm sunny weather and I bet you'll see better things when you inspect the next time.
     
  4. Larus

    Larus New Member

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    Thank you both for the reassurances. I should have had more patience than to tear into my hive on the first warm day, but I knew it was the first CONSISTENTLY warm day, and I've been waiting all winter long to look inside a hive again, so I just couldn't stay away. At least I had enough patience not do wreak all the destruction I originally planned - go through every frame, clean out the bottom board, switch them to a screened bottom board, e.t.c. I also found out how much honey stores they still had left, and that they don't need additional feed for a while.

    I am sure that you both are right - after two weeks of sunny weather and highs in the 70s, I will see "better things" when I inspect :smile:. And I know that oftentimes the best thing I can do for my bees is to leave them alone. But I worry too much, about everything - not just bees, and sometimes I just can't resist the tendency to double and triple check that everything is fine. :| I often can't walk away from the house in the morning without trying the front door 3 times to see if I really actually locked it.
     
  5. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    Good thing the bees aren't like that, or they'd never get any foraging done! :wink:
     
  6. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    sometime a bit better information as to a hive being queen right can be made by simply feeding a bit of 1 to 1 syrup 10 days to 2 weeks ahead of any full inspection.

    without doing this any very early season inspection should not come to some final decision that a hive is queenless. most often at this point in time you are better off relying on the hive disposition than anything else.

    the point to be made here (and the same problem can and will often arise in the fall of the year) that the absence of brood does not necessarily mean queenlessness... SOME queens (and perhaps the very best of them???) can and will start and end egg laying in sync with a nectar flow.
     
  7. Larus

    Larus New Member

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    I was thinking of giving them syrup that day. I even brought along a gallon of the stuff in a pail feeder. I thought I'd find that they've eaten through most or all of their "mountain camp" sugar on top of the inner cover and no to little honey stores left. But since they had so much left over honey (at least 3 deep frames worth of capped honey), they never touched the "candy board" so still had pounds of solid sugar left over. They most definitely didn't need to be fed.

    I am looking forward to inspecting this hive again in 10 days from today. I don't think the nectar will be flowing then either - right now no nectar plants are blooming around here despite the warm weather - just maples, oaks, crocuses and snowdrops. The first significant nectar flow around here is dandellions, and I don't think those will be ready until after I do the next inspection. Still, I am so happy that I have an overwintered hive - so many new things to observe and so many new learning experiences (and hopefully a head start on a great honey harvest)!
     
  8. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    a snip..
    They most definitely didn't need to be fed.

    tecumseh:
    you are really not attempting to feed the bees here but simply to simulate a nectar flowing coming into the hive... which often times will kick off brood rearing by the queen.
     
  9. letitbee

    letitbee New Member

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    I'll never forget opening a hive of mine that went queenless. I had on shorts, a t-shirt and just a veil and as soon as I popped the top I was promptly attacked. The bees came boiling out of that hive like it was on fire. After running away like I was on fire too, I suited up and went in. I couldn't find the queen and noticed capped brood but it was all over the place and very gnarley looking. My beek mentor came over and he confirmed that the hive was queenless. Bee behavior is definitly a sign. Laying workers are easy to spot as well. I learned a valuable lesson that day and will never go in a hive without full riot gear. Thank God for Benedryl!

    p.s. The queenless hive was still bringing in lots of pollen
     
  10. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    Larus, just keep in mind that if you do decide to start feeding syrup or pollen subs for any reason early in the season, be sure to keep feeding them until the real nectar flow starts. Don't start and then stop, if there is no natural source of nectar yet.
     
  11. Eddy Honey

    Eddy Honey New Member

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    The thing I've learned and keep telling myself is that an inspection is a mere snapshot of the hive. Things can change the moment you close up the hive.
     
  12. G3farms

    G3farms New Member

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    that is the truth, that "crunch" you hear as the cover goes on could be the queen :frustrated::goodpost:
     
  13. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    Boy do I hate that sound, too.
     
  14. efmesch

    efmesch Active Member

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    If you've got a musical ear, you'll be able to hear and identify the buzz of a queenless hive. It's distinctly diferent from the happy hum of a queenright hive. Just like a swarm has it's own music, hives under queenless stress sound different. But it's a music you have to learn with time. Listen for it and you'll learn.
     
  15. RayMarler

    RayMarler New Member

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    Loitering bees on the front board is not a good sign. Just hanging around catching sun rays, or lazy on the front board is not a good sign. Guard bees on the front board is a good sign. Bees coming and going like it's a good day to get to work is a good sign.

    I've got a nuc that is working like it's 4th of July as soon as it hits close to 50F. My other two nucs have bees loitering around alot, not much working being done. No guard bees either. I know they have queens, but they are very small struggling nucs. I'm thinking the queens may not be so good, but with such small populations, I giving them benefit of doubt at the moment. But the difference of actions on the front landing boards between the busy one and the other two nucs are like night and day.
     
  16. srvfantexasflood

    srvfantexasflood New Member

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    Hey efmesch,
    Can you hum a few bars?:lol:
    On a more serious note (no pun intended), that's interesting to know.
     
  17. brooksbeefarm

    brooksbeefarm New Member

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    I agree with efmesch, you can tell the difference of the sound when you take the lid off.Two outward signs i've noticed is, if they recently just became queenless (still fairly strong) they tend to be aggressive. If they have been queenless for some time, there will be little or no activity on the landing board. Bees bringing in pollen is a good sign that a queen is present, but i have seen workers briging pollen to a queenless hive also. Jack
     
  18. efmesch

    efmesch Active Member

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    Sorry, but after 46 years with the same queen :queen: I've trained my ear for hearing,
    but as a result my voice for singing has fallen into disuse. :rolling:
     
  19. bwwertz

    bwwertz New Member

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    So....leave it to me to ask a silly question, but when exactly can you tell the nectar flow is "on?" Blooms on plants/flowers/trees?
    (the earlier talk about the sound of the "crunch" literally made my stomach churn! The thought of that being the queeen......oh.....)
     
  20. bwwertz

    bwwertz New Member

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    Also, I've got one hive perplexing me. Very calm, some bees coming in with pollen, plenty of pollen and honey in the hive - but no queen spotted since about last Dec, no eggs, brood, or larva, and I put three brushed of frames of brood in this hive and they didn't start a queen cell. What is going on????? Also, have sugar syrup on top and still - no interest whatsoever. Starting to wonder if the hive next door is populating it. Possibly planning on moving the strong hive about .1 miles away and letting the foragers return to the weak hive. Thoughts there too?