My hive is languishing

Newbee here (geddit?). I got my bees in July (I know, late) and I’ve had it for three months. I got a 6-frame “nuc” (quotes because I wasn’t smart and got it from a shady beekeeper). I got it home, the queen started laying, but not very much. Not enough for the hive to thrive.

I’m feeding them pollen and sugar water, and I see that they’re loading up with pollen, but I’m worried. There is capped brood, but I’m wondering if the brood has expired and I’m just looking at empty cells. Is that a thing?

I tested for varroa mites in late September and treated them with Mite-away (it wasn’t a bad infestation…four mites per 300) about three weeks ago, and when I inspected the hive (after the three weeks). I didn’t see any eggs or larvae. The colony seems to have shrunk, in fact. It’s a hot fall here in California (climate change is hitting us hard).

I understand that formic acid can halt laying for a bit, and that it can kill some of the workers, but I haven’t seen any dead bees around the hive, and the queen (Freddie Mercury) seems healthy.

Any and all advice greatly appreciated.

Hi Becky, I got it “new bee”. Calling the queen Freddie Mercury, instead of Elizabeth or Victoria, that’s unique.

I’m on the Sunshine Coast Australia, we don’t have varroa here yet. Therefore unable to answer your questions. I think the brains trusts will probably ask for photos.

“Empty cells” is a thing. They could have new eggs in them, if you hold the frame into the sunlight, you might see them. They can be hard to spot in the shade, it all depends on the color of the comb whether they are easy to see or not.



Frames are old…can’t see through them :frowning:

I’ll take pictures next time I inspect.

Old frames can be particularly hard to spot eggs in. You get a reflection in the cell that looks like eggs. I look forward to those photos, cheers.

Hitting a hive with anything that is alien to a hive will normally set them back a bit. But the colony should be still powering on with your warm Autumn weather, especially as you are feeding them as well.
I would check the capped brood after another week and if the bees haven’t emerged from the comb I would be thinking there might be an issue with the colony. I’m not good at aspotting eggs so your not alone with that.
Hopefully @Dawn_SD will pick up the thread as she lives in California as like Jeff I’m in Australia.
Good luck and post us an update when you can.
Cheers and welcome to the forum.

Hi, and welcome to the Flow forum!

Shady in what way? Only asking because that may help to pin point any problems.

I would like to expand on what @JeffH wrote. Empty cells is only “a thing” if they are uncapped. Most colonies will not tolerate capped cells with nothing or something dead in it. If brood dies in the cells, they uncap it and throw out the dead pupa. They only stop doing that if their numbers are very low or the colony is very sick. If the cells are capped, they are likely viable bees under the cap. The brood pattern is also very important. If it is “scattered” then your queen may not be doing well. If you can take some photos, we can try to help.

I actually don’t like MAQS or formic acid, because it can kill around 10% of queens. The higher the temperatures when you are treating, the more likely that becomes. I believe that queens in particular are very sensitive to obstruction of their malpighian tubules in the presence of formic acid. She may stop laying because of that damage, even if it isn’t enough to kill her. All you can do is observe.

In case you haven’t seen it, this is a very nice article comparing various mite treatments.

The other possibility is that queens in your area normally stop laying at this time of year. In San Diego, my queens never stop laying, but as we over 500 miles south of you, the climate may differ quite a lot. I would suggest asking at a local bee club, if you can. If not, you could call Olivarez Honey Bees - they are north of you (Orland, CA - about 140 miles), but they would have a good idea. Their staff are knowledgeable, friendly and extremely helpful. They also have very nice queens for sale :blush: Having said that, there would be little point in buying a queen if they are not laying in your area any more.

That would be exceptionally helpful. In your situation, I would keep inspecting every couple of weeks. I would not feed them pollen at this time of year, unless they have less than half a frame of it stored. Syrup is fine, but I would use 2:1 sugar to water (or 5:3 - it dissolves more easily) to help them process it faster for winter storage.

Please ask again if there is anything else we can help with. :wink:

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First thing, thank you everyone for your kind support! With the way of the interwebz these days, you never know when you’re venturing into hostile territory…

The beekeeper I got the bees from is shady in that he just handed me a cardboard box of bees that wasn’t very well sealed (had to get some more tape otherwise I would have had a seriously bad ride home) and when I got them home found five really old frames with a very small colony. There was capped brood and a healthy looking queen and I didn’t want to traumatize them by taking them back, so I just sucked it up and transferred them into my hive.

The brood pattern looks fine, clustered in the center of the 5 frames. I can see the eggs and larvae when they’re there, but when I’ve seen them they haven’t been plentiful. No multiples, so the workers aren’t laying. Queens keep laying in the winter around here, so I would expect to see at least a few, and more than I have, for sure.

I’ve been feeding them 2:1 sugar syrup. There isn’t much pollen or any honey :frowning_face, so I think I should keep feeding them the pollen.

They’re not in the sunniest of places and I plan to move them (I know the protocol…2 feet at the most at a time, put grass or something like it in front of the entrance, or something that makes them fly up when they exit the hive). I’m planning to put them on a furniture dolly and roll them slowly (over several days) toward their destination.

There’s a local bee co-op I can call…the bee expert isn’t very friendly, so I’m a bit hesitant. I don’t want to be criticized…just guided.

I’ll take pictures next weekend and post them here.

Thanks again for the great advice!


I fully understood what you were meaning about the ‘shady’ bloke who sold you the bees. This forum is great for advice and tips from friendly and helpful bee keepers that are happy to give tips and advice.
Glad that Dawn picked up your thread for more local advice and I’m looking forward to an update and pics.


Hey @Sugarplum welcome! I bet there aren’t many friendlier online communities than this one :blush::raised_hands:
Makes it a real lifesaver especially when you encounter shady suppliers and critical club beeks. It might be worth checking with that club to see if anyone is willing to sell you a frame or two of brood and nurse bees to boost your colony, assuming they aren’t too far gone with some disease. Post pics if you can :nerd_face:

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How does that work…bringing in frames with brood and nurse bees.? How would you introduce them without civil war?

A frame of larvae with nurse bees attending to it has a great chance of being accepted by the receiving hive without rejection or any problem. The same as you donate a frame of larvae from a strong hive to a weaker colony. If the brood is young enough that frame can be used to produce a new queen if the hive is queenless as the bees regard the frame as part of their colony.

Just plonk them in (gently). :blush: I agree with @Peter48, nurse bees generally don’t want to fight. All they want to do is take care of brood.

A bee is a nurse bee from day 1 to about day 18 of life. From 18 to 21, they are guard bees and hang out around the entrance looking for a fight. After that, they become foragers and will fight if they have to, but don’t tend to when away from their own hive.

So if you lift up a frame of brood from a healthy hive and wait for a minute for any bees which want to fly, to do so, you will have mainly nurse bees. I have made many splits, mixing frames from several different hives, and not had a problem with the nurse bees on the frames fighting.

Neat. Do you have Varroa mites down there? I’m in the East Bay across the bay from SF. We have a serious problem here.

I am so glad I connected with y’all!

There is nowhere honest in the US that doesn’t have Varroa. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: Yes, we do. Last year was horrible. This year was less bad, but I still have to treat at least twice a year. There is an interesting map here:

My counts last year were repeatedly 8 or 9 per 100 bees. We lost one colony to a winter storm in February and replaced it with a package from Mann Lake. That hive has had very low counts all year, as you might expect - the last one in August was 5 mites in 300 bees (1.7 mites per 100, if you like, but it sounds silly!). We still treated because of the infestation last year. The other older hive has varied between 2 and 6 mites per 100 bees. Our third hive was killed by insecticide poisoning and so did not get a count in August. Earlier counts were all 1-2 per 100 bees.

So I don’t feel so bad…5 mites/300. I still have a hard time believing that there are 300 bees in a half cup.

BTW, I don’t have a Flow Hive…yet. I didn’t want to invest until I knew I could manage a hive.


We mostly don’t care what kind of hive you have, as long you love bees. You will do superbly as a beekeeper. You already have a good knowledge base, you are motivated and you are willing to learn. Sounds ideal. I hope you continue for many years. :blush:

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I do love my bees!


Hi Sugarplum, I have a flow hive that was given to me, however I don’t use it. @Dawn_SD knows that, but loves me just the same.

I don’t see the harvesting of honey to be the major challenge with beekeeping. The major challenge is looking after the bees so that we can actually get to the point of harvesting some honey, then maintaining the status quo.

Maintaining the status quo can actually be the biggest challenge, going by personal observations.


Yes, as far as I’m concerned, the bees’ welfare takes precedence over the honey. It’s a happy benefit when the bees are healthy and content.

You can call me Becky, BTW.