Shy queen in troubled hive

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Crofter, Jul 21, 2012.

  1. Crofter

    Crofter New Member

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    I had one slow hive out of a lot of 6 nucs from one bee supplier. I was shown the queen when we transferred the nucs to my equipment. That was the last time till today that I have been able to find her in the hive. My wife spotted her hiding in a hole in the bottom corner of a frame and she would take turns peaking out each side of the frame as I turned it to examine.

    Any how the supplier mentioned that the nuc was a bit on the light side but should catch up. The others did really well but that one was always slow to get going in the morning and not a good laying pattern. A month ago I finally put the hive on a screened bottom and put in a stick board. Fifty or so mite drop in 24 hours from about nine sparse frames. I decided to try hopguard and got 125 or so mite drop on first day with the strips then down to about 25 a day by day 6. Since this strip doesn't get under the cappings I opted to treat weekly for three weeks to catch the mite crops that emerge with new brood. The third set of strips show about a dozen mites in three days and the capped brood is losing the shotgun pattern and there is a lot more foraging activity.

    I had thought I should requeen and scratched my head over why one out of a bunch could be so different while the sister hives did so well both here and at my sons yard. One is his best producer out of 30 or so mixed source hives. Maybe she is a good queen that was kept on her knees by the mites, and I was in denial. If I could have found her I would have pinched her and given them a frame of eggs from one of the other hives and let them raise one. Anyway that is how she survived! I will see how she does now and if she cant get enough stores together by fall, I will off with her head and combine with another hive. If this were a commercial venture for sure I would have to be a lot more decisive as one can sure waste a lot of time treating each hive as an individual.

    There was just the faintest of light rain this morning and the girls were out working on the buckwheat I scattered along my fence lines. Probably my main flow right now is honeydew from the aphids in the oak trees. Thistle, joe pye weed and golden rod are not really on yet; terribly dry!
     
  2. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    Did your nucs start from 5 frame boxes? How many months ago? Seems like too short a time for mites to be a significant problem, to me anyway.
     

  3. efmesch

    efmesch Active Member

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    Crofter, I like your approach--it's the non-commercial side of beekeeping that is the most rewarding---maybe not in honey but in learning about these fascinating insects. And the knowledge comes in handy at some later date so don't feel as if you are wasting time and energy. :grin:
     
  4. PerryBee

    PerryBee New Member

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    I am with Efmesch on this one as well.
    Every hive has a story, and it is up to us as stewards to try and "read" that story. It would get (dare I say it) boring if the stories were always the same. It is the challenge of finding something different and perhaps trying to tweak things that keeps the mind and soul sharp.
    I have suffered hives that probably should have been abandoned and given them a chance to overwinter rather than combine and ended up with fantastic hives the next year! Not always, but it keeps things interesting.
    Plus, like Efmesch I suspect, I am a softie when it comes to pinching queens. Only as a last resort.
     
  5. efmesch

    efmesch Active Member

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    PerryBee:... like Efmesch I suspect, I am a softie when it comes to pinching queens.
    I confess. You read me right.
    :crybye:
     
  6. Crofter

    Crofter New Member

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    Omie, Yes 5 frame nucs around May 12. That was part of my thinking as well, that mites should not be a problem. These bees are supposedly quite varroa hygenic and I supposed that could account for the development of the scattered empty spots re layed with eggs in amongst the capped brood. I had some macro pictures that I studied for mites and that looked OK. The yard we picked the nucs from was isolated and had about 50 nucs in 25 divided deeps. One of the other nucs of mine has the second deep mostly capped honey and have fully drawn out and filled a shallow honey super and starting the second. One of them my son has, is sporting 7 boxes high, but I cant remember how many are deep or shallow supers; he runs both.

    I thought about nosema as well but we have not gotten our act together on testing though we have the microscope and cell counting slides etc. Just too many irons in the fire this summer. I tried a little batch of fumigillin syrup in top feeder jars, (yes, I know, treatment without diagnosis!) but they were not interested so I drizzelled (slopped) some over the frames out of frustration for having my offering refused, Lol! I will see in a few weeks how they are doing.
     
  7. gunsmith

    gunsmith New Member

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    Crofter:
    You stated in the first post that the supplier told you that that particular nuc was a "bit on the light side", Did he not offer to make it a bit heavier? The reason I ask is that I purchased 3 nucs this spring and the supplier was more than happy to shake out a frame or 2 when I raised that question.
    Like everyone else, I wouldn't think that mites would be a problem yet, unless the frames you got from the supplier were full of them. And, like Perry and ef, I have a hard time pinching a queen unless there is a good reason.
    Please keep us posted. Good luck.
     
  8. Crofter

    Crofter New Member

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    Gunsmith, I am sure he would have topped them up a bit if I had asked but they were still well populated compared to some other nucs we purchased from other suppliers so I figured they would get up to speed. I still dont know whether it was a poor performing queen all along or it just happened to have a heavy mite load that she never got ahead of. I will be going into the hive again next week and see if the laying pattern has improved now that the mites are known to be knocked down. I would take some action sooner if I see this happening again.
     
  9. Crofter

    Crofter New Member

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    Went into that hive again today and there is a newly drawn out frame laid up quite solidly with eggs on one side and they are drawing out the other side. Most of the rest of the frames are all patch work but I suppose it will not be easy to get that pattern regular again without a brood interruption. An alcohol wash from about 50 bees showed only one mite. Will watch the progress closely. Conditions are now about where they should have been the end of May in the sister hives which have all had some honey harvested.

    My thoughts wander to whether there is a tipping point for mite levels that along with other conditions can create a situation that the queen cannot recover from without help. Why only one hive though, out of many ?
     
  10. Crofter

    Crofter New Member

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    Roughly a month later and the colony seems beesy. The laying pattern is nice and solid and the population is on the rise. Traffic at the front door is nearly as heavy as the sister hives. The problem will be stores. I weighed it today and the two deeps with no bottom or top cover only weigh 55 lbs. That is fish scale weight and I will have to check to see how close to truth it is. They look like they are taking about 5 lbs of sugar in syrup a day but man alive it looks like I will have to feed them another 70 lbs. if I am looking to get a hive weight of 150 lbs. before they shut down for winter.
     
  11. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    Sounding pretty good to me!
    Do you have nothing much blooming there where you are?
     
  12. Crofter

    Crofter New Member

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    Wildflowers and weeds; virtually no agriculture within flying range. The plus is very little pesticide use either. I weighed one other hive and am seeing about 95# for the two deeps. I might have to feed them a bit but they are putting away stores as well as capping a few supers.