Beekeepers Friend

Peaches' Beekeeping Blog

May 14, 2013

No Queen – Why?

I was at the Escarosa Beekeepers Assn meeting and one of the new beekeepers made mention that she could not find her queen.  She said that the bees swarmed while she was out of town and she decided to check her hive.

The lady said that she went through the brood box and still couldn’t find the royal figure. I told her that I would be glad to go over today and help her find that elusive queen. Upon arriving, Martha, you don’t mind if we call her Martha do you?, led me to the back yard and there was a lonely box with three honey supers on top of the brood box. Medium, shallow, medium. Hmmmmm

While we talked, Martha got the smoker going. She uses pine straw. It is plentiful and is a very good smoke producer. Then while she donned her bee jacket, veil, and gloves, I just sat there and studied the situation. I had on my bee hat and Tulle veil wadded up on my hat with my face exposed.

We smoked the entrance and under the top board. After waiting about two minutes to give the bees a chance to get exposed to the smoke, she took the top super off and set aside. There was uncapped honey. Okay, the shallow super came off and it, too, had uncapped honey. Then the third super was set aside and it too, had uncapped honey. Something was wrong. I did notice that there were not very many bees in the three supers.

Now maybe we can find out what is happening to this colony of bees. I took out number 2 frame of the brood box to give me room to remove a frame of brood to inspect it. I took out frames 4 through 7 and there was no brood, eggs, or any sign of a queen’s activities. The bee strength was less than that of a hive that had swarmed. There was one empty queen cell on the bottom of the comb and on another frame there were two open queen cells in the lower middle of the comb as if they raised  supersedure queens. The rest of the brood area had varying degrees of nectar/honey in the cells.

My conclusion is that for some reason, the virgin queens either killed each other, or they got lost coming home from the drone conjugation area. Maybe a bird ate the queens or, a frog decided it was hungry. Or, one other prospect happened – possibly the beekeeper accidentally killed the queen when she was looking for her and didn’t see that she rolled the queen while taking a frame out of the hive. What ever the case may be, there was no queen in the box. The reason the bees were so weak is because the bees are still dying off and there is no replacement babies.

Now Martha must find a queen to place in her colony and hope for the best, or she can buy a nuc or catch a swarm to combine with the last of the bees in the original colony. Otherwise she runs the risk of losing the rest of it.

It just so happens that the supplier of her original colony still has some bees left and has offered to replace the bees. I did give her a nuc box to take to the supplier instead of her having to take the big box  and what little bees she had left.  We will just have to wait and see what develops.

If you have questions, now is the time to ask. The next big thing in the Florida Panhandle is a summer drought.

Now is the time to get your feed ready to help your bees through the drought. Of course, if you left some honey on the hive, the bees will see themselves through just fine.

Later on I will bring some more topics to the fore front. Keep your veil handy, your smoker lit, and your hive tool sharp.



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