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Cutout gone sideways

My question is “Is it likely that I have a queen?”
Performed an emergency cut-out (Tree fell down on a rural property during a storm -xmas day)
Placed brood comb and most of the bees into a box - comb banded onto empty frames.All seemed to be going okay on boxing day - bees started adding to comb etc. - couldn’t see queen but i’m no expert.
The day after there were more hive beetles than bees. Naturally I was pretty disappointed but then began searching for bees. Immediately found the swarm 20metres away. it seemed that they baled out of their own accord (swarmed?). Long story short , I put bees into entirely new box with new foundation frames and a couple of home made beetle traps. So now it’s dec 30th and everything looks great - about 3 frames of bees all actively adding to foundation and adding honey. I still haven’t seen a queen though don;t like to disturb them too much. I guess I’d just like to know if it’s likely for the bees to continue to operate at this level without a queen? At what point would I expect to see evidence of the queen being present or should I just order a new queen?
Unfortunately I don’t have any other hives that I can borrow frames of brood etc. and at this time of year I’m effectively on my own so any advice would be greatly appreciated.Thanks in advance

cutouts can be tough, I did one just before xmas,

check it and it was overflowing with bees, 3 deep all over the frames, 8 frames off awesome brood.

went back a week later toi find they had absconded, about 300 bees left.

hive beetles and wax moths everywhere,

you win some and you lose some.

If the colony is queen right then in a weeks time you will see new larvae in the cells, The bees will build out comb with or without a queen, they make it for storing honey and pollen as well as for the queen to lay eggs. While the bees are establishing them selves don’t overly interfere with them as they could abscond ( bugger-off). If the hive isn’t queen right then your best option is to buy a new queen to maintain the colony strength at this time of year.

Always good to know I’m not the only one Redline!
Thanks for the advice Peter. I wasn’t sure if they would continue activity without a queen though I guess they have a plan to stick to regardless. I’ll try and source a queen next week though most suppliers can’t supply atm due to the weather conditions.

I spoke recently about what to avoid when doing a cut-out. I can’t remember what thread it was. I think folks try to salvage too much of the cut-out hive. I think 4 or 5 good bits of brood fitted to empty frames is sufficient. Then when the frames are placed in the capture box, make sure there is a clear space between the frames containing the combs. Hive beetles are the one thing that will wreck a cut-out. All that hard work for nothing.

@redlinexx, Brett forget about wax moth & hive beetles. It’s all hive beetles. Remember what I’ve been saying to keep hive beetles at the forefront of our minds with everything we do with bees.

Ken Bannister has Italian and Carnie queens at Beerwah, PM me for his phone number if you want it.

I spoke to Ken a couple weeks before xmas and he had none avail till mid Jan, might have to call him again.

He is away on holidays till Jan 10th caravaning…

Happy new year Jeff - hope it’s better than the last. Only received a third our average rainfall last year.

I think you’re onto something there with the distance between combs. I probably didn’t pay much attention to the thicker natural combs . Also the humid stormy weather didn’t help with the beetles. The speed of egg laying and development was really quite impressive
But do you really think that the bees would swarm and move to another location without a queen? They were pretty firmly attached to the base of a small sapling when I moved them back into a new box.

Thanks for trying Peter - I knew it wouldn’t be easy . That’s why I’d like to determine if it’s likely I have a queen before I go any further and of course I don’t want to stress the hive any more.

Hi Paul, many thanks, same to you mate. It’s starting off good already, I saw a low hanging gum tree in bud while I was driving home this morning. It never occurred to me then that it was the start of a new, better & more exciting year than last year.

Yeah, in relation to cut outs: Just thinking back to the few I have done over recent years, I only secure a few combs to empty frames with hive beetle always at the top of my priorities to prevent problems that can be caused by them. I’ve never had any problems with bees absconding.

The queen may have left with the swarm & could be with it, if she was still alive. The bees will rebuild without a queen. Even with no hope of the colony surviving, they will rebuild so that laying workers can start laying & making drones. Drones being the key to that colony passing on it’s genes, even while it perishes.

Step one is to know if there is a queen for certain, you don’t need to eye ball her but if you can see eggs or young larvae then figure that she is there. Don’t over disturb the bees while they are settling in as that will only make them think about absconding.

In spite of only receiving a third our average rainfall last year, it’s been a pretty good season for native blossoms - bloodwood and ironbark flowering well now and spotted gum about to start.

I’ll leave it till monday to have another look - if there is no queen then I’ll need to order one on monday so I can receive it before the weekend.
With regard to Jeff’s post - How can I be sure the eggs/larvae are from a queen and not just from ‘laying workers’ ?

If the brood is worker bees then they are not being layed from a worker bee who can only produce drones mate…

The laying workers would take longer to start laying I’d suspect. If you look for eggs in the freshly built comb & see them on Monday, I’m pretty sure that will be from the Queen.

It’s a funny one because what I said before was purely speculation based my understanding of what I believe the bees will be likely to do. Just thinking: you have foundation so the bees will likely build worker comb. If a laying worker lays in worker comb, the bees will have to extend the cell much higher to allow for the extra size of the drone. That’s easy to spot up against existing worker comb, however not so easy to judge when there is no existing worker comb. You’d have to wait until the cells were capped, then you know because drones are domed, while workers are slightly convexed.

I was thinking it was a funny one because if the bees were starting from scratch knowing they had no queen & were preparing for a laying worker, I wonder if they would build drone comb in that instance.

I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. I just find it hard to comprehend that the hive would abscond on mass to another location cling to a stump AND then allow themselves to be relocated to a hive AND start building all without a queen. If this happened in the original box they were placed in I could understand them continuing to operate without a queen but to me it seems a pretty serious show of faith on their part to keep soldiering on to this extent without a queen. Anyway I’ll give them till Monday - I have to go back to work at the end of next week and if I leave it another 2 weeks to acquire a queen I’m assuming I’ll have missed the boat. Any ideas on the latest time to add a queen post cut-out?

I think the reason why the bees absconded could be because hive beetle got a chance to lay eggs everywhere in the comb. Once that happens, if the colony is not strong enough in numbers to be able to overwhelm the beetle activity, they’ll abscond because beetle slime is a bee repellent. Fingers crossed you find eggs in the comb on Monday.

In preference to adding a queen, I’d be more inclined to add a frame of brood if you can possibly acquire one from another beekeeper. You might be able to acquire a frame of brood a lot faster than a new queen.

All good thanks fellas. Found queen - she was wearing a Freddy Mercury moustache so didn’t recognize her. Bees are working on 3-4 frames with at least 1 full frame of eggs, larvae and about a dozen capped brood cells so she must have started laying pretty much day 1. Stored pollen and nectar so all looking good as well as good temperament.
Again- I think you were dead right Jeff about distance between combs. I didn’t allow for extra thickness of combs. I’m pretty sure the hive beetles were hiding out where the combs were touching as bees couldn’t reach them


Well done Paul, that’s great news & thanks for the update.

It’s not so much the beetles hiding where the comb meets, it’s more that the beetles can lay eggs in between where the combs meet, the eggs quickly hatch, then the larvae start consuming stuff under the joins first Then it gets worse the more of those places there are because the beetle larvae slime is a bee repellent, therefore the more of those spots there are, it gets too overwhelming for the bees to be able to cope with cleaning it up. Absconding is the end result for the bees.

The bees can cope with only a couple of those spots, they seem to be able to overwhelm the larvae & clean the spot out, then leave that spot empty for a period until the slime odor has passed, which can take some time.

That is great news you have found the queen and she is doing her thing. I’m far from ‘brilliant’ as spotting a queen so when I do I mark her. When I do brood inspections what I look for is young larvae to confirm she is active so actually seeing her is no more than a bonus.
What I am finding in December and January this year is less brood and bee numbers in my hives which I am guessing is a result of less nectar available to previous Summers in the past because of the bush fires.
A queen breeder not too far away has shut down his queen breeding this year saying the queens he is producing are not laying well enough. He has not been directly effected by bush fires but I am wondering if the hotter than normal conditions has reduced the available nectar and so the colonies are preventing the queens laying to their potential? He is feeling a bit dejected and feeling he is just producing dud queens, but in better conditions they might be better.