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Bees drastically reduced and no sign of my queen

Hi guys!

I’m experiencing my first full spring as a beekeeper and I’m saddened to say that I’ve run into a big hiccup. I couldn’t find my queen in an inspection yesterday and found I had reduced numbers of bees and no sign off larvae or eggs.

In the last 2.5 weeks I’ve performed 2 inspections:

The inspection that I undertook 2.5 weeks ago was great. Honey stores in brood and super were looking great, larvae and eggs were in abundance and I had about 80% of my brood box filled. Queen was sighted too I noticed a considerable amount of bees but assumed I wouldn’t need to split due to the remaining 20%.

My latest inspection (performed yesterday) was rather concerning. A reduction in bee numbers, no queen spotted, no eggs or larvae found and some cells showed strange contents.

My assumption is that my queen may have swarmed and the attempts for the hive to rear another queen has failed, or she is infertile?

I’ve also taken a few pictures of a number of frames as the frames just don’t look right. A number of cells have funny looking content inside and I’m just not sure what it is.

So I guess I have two questions.

  1. What has happened to my queen and hive in general and;
  2. Is my hive diseased?

Any assistance or advice from anyone would be greatly appreciated!

Hi Josh, I’m assuming your colony swarmed. Sometimes bees swarm well before they fill a hive up. They can be hard to stop if that happens because we’re waiting for usual signs before we step in to do swarm prevention measures. You may have also accidentally killed the queen, or the colony may have balled & killed her during your previous inspection.

Are you finding any remnants of torn down queen cells? You should see them in either case.

You may have to engage an experienced beekeeper to help you & show you some things to look out for. Your local bee club might be able to help you out there. Just tell them you have a langstroth hive, in case you get a negative reaction to a flow hive, assuming you have one.

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The “funny” looking cells look like bee bread and/or pollen to me. Agree with Jeff that the queen perhaps died at last inspection as there was the odd cell of capped brood in the photos so your 2.5 week timeline confirms that.
Suggest getting a few frames of brood both capped and uncapped to boost the hive numbers and let them rear a queen.

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Looks “OK” to me but the queen is missing and they cannot raise another. I would look at getting another queen ASAP so the colony does not die off. If you can get a frame or two of brood that would be a great boost as well.

Cheers
Rob.

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Hi Josh, what I am seeing in the pics is pollen of different colors in the cells if that is the ‘strange contents’ you are asking about.
I’m guessing you killed the queen on the inspection and for some reason they didn’t produce a new queen. What I would do if the hive is already low in bee numbers is to introduce a new bought queen as there is no brood in the pics that the colony can make a new queen from.
Another option is if you have a local bee group you might be able to buy a frame or two of eggs and really young brood with nurse bee on the frame and they can make a new queen.
Even if you go for a new queen I would also add a frame of brood to the hive so that when the queen lays new brood there will be young bees to look after it.
My reason in saying that your queen was killed during the inspection rather than that the hive swarmed, when a hive swarms it already has a new queen being produced.
When you do an inspection of the brood area remove the outer frame first and it is not likely for the queen to be on it. Then slide each frame sideways from the next separate the frame before lifting it out, doing it that way you are not as likely to kill the queen as just lifting each frame out.
Welcome to the forum Josh and you will get heaps of good advice and tips here.
Cheers

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Hi @joshking sorry this happened just as you’re getting started. Beekeeping presents a steep learning curve, but persistence will pay off. I agree with everyone’s input and would only add that what your bees did is called absconding - as Peter said, swarming would have left you with a viable population and a new queen in the making. Absconding is when the majority of the colony leaves due to adverse conditions. But, since it doesn’t look like this is disease related, go grab those booster frames and either buy or let the bees make a new queen, and you’ll be back in the game! :sunglasses::raised_hands::honeybee:

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