Hi all. We are in full spring here & we just did our 2nd inspection of the year which gave confusing results. Two of the hives look awesome and one is even starting to fill & cap the flow frames. But one has swarmed, likely multiple times :(.
When we checked 3 weeks ago there was wall to wall capped brood (mostly worker) in the brood box, some drone & Larvae. We had left this hive all winter with a queen excluder on so we’re concerned the queen may have frozen but took the great laying pattern as a sign all was well. The super was full of capped brood also, so we moved up one brood frame and put in an undrawn frame into the brood box to give the bees something to do. We did not see and swarm cells (though I now think I probably missed them).
Today, around 80% of the bees were gone - so we immediately knew something was very wrong. Weirdly, the super was still full of capped honey & the frame we had moved up from the brood had an empty queen cell and about 7 unhatched capped brood cells (I guess they froze?).
The brood box had some nectar and pollen and the odd capped drone cell but absolutely no larvae, or eggs. They had drawn out the frame we put in fully, so have definitely been working in the last few weeks. There were probably another 4 uncapped (? Hatched) queen cells, one of which looked like it might have been torn down.
So my options are:
- Our queen did die during the winter and for some reason they only just tried to make a new one and the numbers dwindled
- I think this is highly unlikely as there was a brood box full of capped workers, so I don’t think the numbers would be that low unless some swarmed or absconded.
- We killed the queen accidentally at last inspection.
- I thought this originally, but again I don’t think bee numbers would be this low.
- The hive had already decided to swarm and built cells after we checked and they left a few days ago just befor the new queen hatched. This would mean we have a Virgin queen running around somewhere.
- I’m not sure the timing adds up here as wouldn’t I expect more brood if they had just swarmed?
- We missed queen cells & the hive has swarmed multiple times hence the lack of any brood.
- this is my favourite option, although I’m still a little confused as to why the super is still full of honey.
- The bees were poisoned so all died out in the field somewhere (it is weed spraying time up here).
- this makes little sense as the other hives are near by and thriving and there were no dead bees in the hive.
Whatever has happened, we added a frame of eggs & capped worker brood from another hive as they can make emergency queen cells if they need to and if there is a Virgin running around we will brood their numbers with the hatching workers.
So I’m very interested in people’s opinions of what happened. I think the moral may be to check more carefully for queen cells, although we did check every frame & the ones there now are mostly on the bottom so I don’t get why we didn’t see them. We are going to check again in 3 weeks to see if they built QCs on the new frames, or if we now have a laying queen. I think in retrospect we should have packed them down into one box & taken most of the honey so they can’t take it if they swarm again they can’t take it with them.
Thanks for reading the rambling,