Thank Goodness for Strong Hives

Discussion in 'General Beekeeping' started by Bens-Bees, Jun 13, 2010.

  1. Bens-Bees

    Bens-Bees New Member

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    I went to check on the 4 hives I moved up North a couple of weeks ago and to add honey supers to them because the clover there just started blooming last week. Well the first hive I walked up to I saw had 0 entrance activity, so I thought Uh-oh they absconded… this came from a swarm that had been caught the same day I moved the hives up there and was from a small swarm so I wasn’t expecting much from them anyway. Nevertheless I popped the cover and found that they were still there, but were queenless and had dwindled down to 4 or 5 hundred bees. Now ordinarily when you run across this you’d just combine with one of the other hives, but I’m trying to build up my total number of colonies right now and could really care less about a honey crop this year. So I decided to try and save them... :roll: ... even though I know it’s already right on the cusp of when they’re not going to be able to build up in time for winter. If they raise their own queen now by the time she gets mated it’ll be right at the summer dearth before she starts laying. But if I have to feed them or whatever, then fine, I’ll do that. The only good news is that this farm is in a kind of micro-climate and has 100 acres of clover that just started to bloom and should continue for another month or (fingers crossed) two.

    Anyway, I went to the next hive to borrow some brood, and there was some entrance activity on this hive but not a whole lot… opened it up and found that they are queenright, but don’t have a lot of brood to spare. Nevertheless I did pull 2 frames, one had a couple hundred eggs and the other had maybe 50 to a hundred capped brood cells but no eggs… that was all this hive could spare… ugh… but I’m thinking no big deal because I have 2 more I can borrow from…

    So I go on to the next after adding those brood frames to the tiny queenless hive, and the next hive I go to has almost no entrance activity but does have a couple… so I open it up and find that this one also is queenless (also came from a swarm the same day I dropped them off up there, but came from a good sized swarm so I expected more out of them)… only this one also has a laying worker. UGH! There are at least double the number of bees in this colony than the first though, but I don’t want to lose any colonies right now so I’m still not willing to throw in the towel and combine the two weak ones which is what I probably ought to have done at that point.

    So last hive, last hope… I walk over, normal entrance activity… this is the hive that was SUPER-hot when I dropped them off and hadn’t been before that so I was worried that the move had killed the queen, but when I popped the top they were packed in and nice and calm… even though the clover had just started blooming, they had already filled and capped 3 frames on the upper super. Every other frame was SOLID with brood in both boxes… it was the most beautiful laying pattern I have ever seen. Thank goodness for this hive. It was my savior for the other two. Now I had plenty of brood, honey, everything I needed to lend to the other two colonies. I pulled half the frames from the top box and split them between the other two colonies, making sure to give the one frame that had a few eggs in it to the one with the laying workers since I had already given eggs to the other one…

    Thank goodness for strong hives. I wouldn’t have had a chance to save both of the other two without the last one. I added a QE to this hive and 2 honey supers as well as to the other queenright hive that’s not quite as strong. I’ll go back in a week or two at the latest to check on the ones I’m trying to save and to add another super or two to that strong hive.
     
  2. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    1 out of 4 doesn't sound to much like good news?

    Reading your description in reverse suggest you could have made some good conclusions just based on activity at the front door? Was there pollen also coming in at the most active hive?

    If the hives were in the same proximity and not too large you could have switched places between the laying worker hive and the very populated hive and had the bees take care of the problem themselves. there is an inherent risk in this switch, which is some small probability that the queen in the active hive might get murdered.

    As an alternative strategy and specifically if you can obtain fresh queens in some short time period I would have likely combining the above 4 hives into a minimum of three (the first being the obvious choice here) or 2 and consider resplitting once I had the fresh queens in hand.

    Based upon your description of flow and season it really sounds like to me you need laying queens in what ever boxes you have right now.

    good luck...
     

  3. riverrat

    riverrat New Member

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    Let us know how this works. I cant say i would have done it this way. but different ways is what makes the world go around. IMO I would have combined hive 1 with hive 2. Hive 1 with only 500 bees has almost hit the point of critical mass and by the time a queen is produced and laying the number will dwindle to below critical mass. a queen will not lay anymore eggs than the bees can handle. By robbing the brood from hive 2 you have set it back to where it is in the same position as hive 1. Hive 3 has a laying worker I would have shaken out the bees and let them join the other 2 remaining hives. A laying worker hive is just about impossible to requeen even with eggs its likely they will not build a queen. Hive 4 I would have supered up for the flow. The other remaining hive from the combine I would feed until it gets built up. split it into 2 five frame nucs and let them build up then add another 5 frame nuc box on top and let them over winter. Come spring when they build up split the 2 nucs into 4 hives this way you will gain more hives. Another thing that you have to look at is weather and when the flows over and the heat shows up the queens will slow down. This is just my opinion and cant wait to here if what you have done works it will be interesting. keep us posted :thumbsup: