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Very weak hive...... Now what?

Hi brains trust
Our hive (which threw out 2 swarms in august despite our best prevention efforts) hasn’t recovered. There’s definately a queen in there because we can see a few larvae, but they’re very scattered and the population isn’t growing. The majority of capped cells seem to be drones too. The doesn’t appear to be and disease etc in there. It’s looked the same for weeks… And it’s spring.
I’m assuming we need to re queen?
We caught the primary swarm and rehoused it and it’s going very strong.
Tried to upload a photo, but keep getting an error. Will try again tomorrow.
Any advice?

Scattered larva, capped drone cells?
There may not be a queen.
If it’s been since August, that could be laying workers: They only produce drones.

If I’m right and it’s been queen-less since August, I would obtain a new package/nuc of bees and get rid of the bees in the hive. I take them for a long ride on my golf cart and shake them out onto the ground. Once done, I change hive locations a bit and install the new bees right on the same combs. They’ll take it from there.


I agree with @Red_Hot_Chilipepper’s diagnosis. However I would not necessarily do the same as him to solve it. As you say you have another hive which seems strong, I would swap a frame of brood with eggs into the weak hive. Inspect in a week and if no queen cells, shake the bees off as Ed describes, then give them another frame of eggs and brood. If you are able to keep doing this, eventually they will get the message and make a new queen. :blush:

Once they make a decent queen cell, you are only a month away from having a laying queen again. They may need one or two more frames of brood to keep their nurse bee numbers up, but after that, they will do fine.


Hello Ron, @Dawn_SD has covered what I would advise. Your strong hive is a resource for eggs to make a new queen and brood to build up the hive numbers so I would use the strong hive. When I transfer a frame of brood I transfer the nurse bees on the frame with it. Old bees don’t make good nurses and it seems that a frame of brood with nurse bees are accepted by the hive.

Sorry Ron, didn’t see you had a second hive:

Either option works: Trying to “rob Peter to pay Paul” method will just take longer but will be a great learning experience as you go into the hive each week to make sure they are progressing.

If it’s still swarm season in your locale, you could repopulate that way as well.

Hi Ed, @RonM is in the Sydney (Australia) beach suburbs so with his climate going into a hot Summer it would be a good time to have his hive recover by making a queen itself with donated frames. It would also be a great learning experience for him being a bee keeper for about a year now.

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Thanks everyone, but there’s a bee in the ointment.
We’re going away for 7 weeks next week and the house sitter can’t do bees obviously.
We have a local beek coming to check things while we’re away, but I don’t want to give him a weekly job.
Question, what if we just leave it alone until we get back at the and of Jan?

If you just leave it alone as it is right now, it will slowly die off and be invade by wax moth’s. The wax moths will destroy/damage wood components and all drawn wax.

I would dump the bees, seal up the hive, and get back to it after your travels.

I would ask your hive minder if he is up to transferring a frame each week. He might enjoy doing it Something o get his teeth into rather than just a routine check.
Ed is right with his last comments, leaving it as is is really a very last option.
Cheers mate.

…or heavily grease the palm of your local beek :wink:

Here’s what they look like… If the upload works.


Maybe you already have a laying worker going on what I’m seeing on those pics with scattered drone cells only.

May I ask what were your prevention efforts? Did you split the hive?

I’m just starting out and maybe there is something to be learned there.

Provided your experienced beek friend can’t be bribed to do weekly manipulations, shake the bees and freeze the frames until you get back: Those will make great resource frames for a new colony.
The defense rests lol.

I agree with @Peter48, it looks like you do have a laying worker. Hive beetle would be my main concern if you were to leave it for seven weeks. It looks like beetles have already done some damage that the bees overwhelmed, going by those photos.

Your beekeeper friend or someone else might accept the colony as a gift, otherwise euthanize the colony might be the best option.


I was wondering if you were going to reply Jeff. I say that as I as only on the phone in desperation to Jeff a week ago with exactly the same problem. It was a split with a great looking queen cell. They tore it down. I put another queen cell in with more larvae only to have them tear it down again. Another frame of young larvae still didn’t result. I bought a queen and they knocked her off too. It was then I noticed the scattered brood like the photos above. Some quick advice from the master and I’m now awaiting results of my attempt.


Ron, I found myself in a similar situation 3 weeks ago and used Jeff’s methods to deal with a laying worker. It’s outlined on the forum and I won’t go into every detail but essentially I took the Laying worker box to my backyard and dumped out the bees. Almost all the bees returned to the position of the hive except what I assumed was the laying workers. I had set up another box in the position of the original hive with mostly fresh foundation and comb that did not have drone brood in it. I gave them one frame from another colony which had eggs in it and some young larvae. A week later I checked it and there were two Queen cells. I was willing to give them another frame of eggs however it was not necessary. If you could do something similar this weekend and check to see if a queen cell is present just before you go on your trip, it might work out. You could give it a second frame of eggs then just in case. At least the brood pheromone may suppress the laying workers and there will be brood emerging keeping the colony going. Maybe a beekeeping friend could check the colony at the three week mark to see if you were successful and give another frame then if needed. In my case it wasn’t. You might be as lucky.


Thanks for all your advice. Going to call the guy tomorrow who’s going to check our hives and ask him what he would like us to do, it will after all be his issue while we’re away.
We’re favouring taking a frame from the strong hive and seeing if we can keep the genetics of our original hive in the apiary. They’re very calm and the queen lays across all 8 frames.
I’ll post an update, maybe before we leave if anything happens… Or when we get back.
Cheers everyone.

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If you have a look at my post called
It’s not a long thread, about half way down I’ve listed my mistakes.
Sorry, don’t know how to link to it.


Thanks for that Ron… I actually was browsing and came across your other threads.

At least you captured the first swarm so you still have a functioning hive.

I bet my first split next spring is going to be a comedy of errors…