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Weak hive- and a swarm- kill a queen- combine?

I have a single Brood hive that seems to be going backwards. It was very active but then it slowed down and over the last month the queen is only laying patchy brood on a single frame and some drone brood on another face. The bee numbers have been declining, and oddly there was a whole face of drones just sitting around inside the hive. Other hives in the same location have far more brood, and very few drones.

I had been thinking that the queen Had stopped laying early in preparation for winter, but I’m now thinking possibly she is defective? She looks fine.

This afternoon I have a chance to catch a small swarm, and I’m wondering if I should kill the queen in the slow hive and combine the swarm to it? I’ve never killed a queen and don’t really want to. But she does seem to be an an underperformer

Hey Jack, Sounds to me like you have the answer. Then maybe replace the swarm queen when you get the chance… or after winter (don’t give her another chance to swarm).

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I totally agree with @Rodderick. The signs you describe are absolutely classic for a failing queen, even if she looks healthy. I look healthy, but good luck in getting any children out of me! :blush: Sorry… Back to the topic.

Yes, I would kill the old queen. I can’t squish them, so we catch them gently and I put them in the freezer. They gradually stop moving and then never wake up. Seems more humane to me. Then merge with the new swarm - better to have one strong hive than two weak ones.

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I just had another look and yes- it’s no good. Hardly any larvae to be seen. The bees have built a few play cups- maybe not so subtly telling the queen- ‘c’mon lay an egg here and abdicate already’. Am off to catch this swarm now- hope it’s still there. A swarm I caught two weeks ago already has more capped brood than this slow hive. Odd to be getting swarm calls this late in the season.

If I do combine- should I go in kill the poor queen- then immediately set up the newspaper trick? I’m wondering if I should let the swarm alone for a few days/week first.

Interesting you posted this Jack. I have a hive that is definitely less productive than it should be. I inspected after a long while on the weekend and saw a disturbing number of drones for this time in the year. Did not see the queen but there was queen cell with Royal jelly in it, and two play cups. I am assuming a supercedure is underway but put a bait hive out in case.

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Well- I caught the swarm- very docile and very small- not much bigger than an orange. Nice light yellow bees. Hopefully there’s a good queen in there, didn’t see her but the bees fanned like they were spreading her scent and all jumped into my box.

I’ve placed the nuc on top of the weak hive- I’ll inspect it in a few days to see if I can spot her then merge the two.

My plan is go into the main hive- catch the queen and remove her then immediately place the newspaper on top with the small swarm above. Once they’ve combined hopefully they’ll all move downstairs and I can remove all the frames the nuc has… I’m going to have to stack a nuc in a 10 frame brood with some sort of temporary cover for the rest of the main hive. Luckily I have nuc boxes without bottoms on them…

Hopefully it will work out perfectly for all the bees (excepting that poor queen that I’ll make a swarm lure with :honeybee: :test_tube:), as the swarm is too small this late in the year and the weak hive needs a :crown: both would likely not make it through winter on their own- combined they should be well set up. Very timely to get a swarm at this late stage autumn.:smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

If I’m really lucky it’s a secondary swarm with a fresh young queen.

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That is what I would do. If the swarm can have access to a box with drawn comb, they will grow much faster.

OK- day one of the expirement… I made a big mistake last night…

When I got home after dark with my new swarm in a Nuc- I placed it on top of the hive that I plan to combine it with. In It’s own box just on the migratory lid of the hive below. Big Mistake! My thinking was Id leave the Nuc there for a few days before inspecting for the queen so the bees would be roughly oriented with where they will live when I combine the two.

Anyhoo: I pop out bright an early to have a lookise- and what do I spy with my little eye? Fighting. The bees from the swarm had all left the box and were all over the hive below- with fighting at the entrance. In a bit of a panic I smoked them, reduced the entrance on the lower hive- and found a frame of uncapped nectar I had and put it in the Nuc hive. Then I re-assessed and gave Jeff a call in QLD. Among other things he suggested maybe sprinkling them with icing sugar… Off to the shops- back in a minute- and sprinkle them I did. It worked! To a large degree it stopped fighting: bees locked in a fight to the death unlocked and went went there separate ways.

Many of the swarm bees marched back into their box. Fighting is subdued but activity all around is still high.

In hindsight I never whould have placed the Nuc on top of the other hive. I should have situated it elsewhere for a week- let it establish, inspect for a queen and then merge with the newspaper but no entrance for rthe swarm trapped in the box above until they chewed though the newspaper and merged with the one below. I shouldn’t have worried about their orientation issues. The swarm was possibly very hungry having been in a bush for some days- down below was a hive full of honey: recipe for disaster.

I now have no idea if there was a queen in the swarm- and if she is now dead or what. There nothing I can really think do to now but wait a few days and see what is left upstairs and downstairs and take it from there. I might have to get brood and eggs from a third hive now to let the original hive make a new queen.

image

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The photos above were this morning-the bees bearding are the swarm not the brood.

This is how things have settled down now in the afternoon:

Never a dull moment at your place Jack !!
After winter when spring arrives I will have seven hives to deal with instead of one…fun times coming my way I think😳

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My mum got more honey from one hive… than I’ve got from 13 this year!

Fun times indeed! :honeybee:

I hope to come out of winter with 13- and to make at least 8 splits right off the bat. Just hoping for a good season next year- but still no good rain this year.

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Great story, Jack! And some very good lessons, plus a bonus tip from our dear Jeff :slight_smile: how handy to know that sprinkling icing sugar on fighting bees stops the aggression - might be worth a try with my clients :sweat_smile:

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Hey Jack,

You got some good reenforcemrnt answers already here. Your last note puts the frosting on the cake ! What’s keeping you bro. I’d quickly find Mrs Dud Queen n do her in.

I’d personally do a newspaper between merge n pop that new baby swarm with new Magesty above … let them have a few days getting friendly chewing thru. Pesto ! Your up n rolling … I do merges all the time.

Cheers,
Gerald

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Hi Jack, it was great to finally chat on the phone & I’m pleased the icing sugar worked. I’ve never tried it, only read about it.

Thank you @Eva for those nice words.

I always put new swarms on top of other colonies if I don’t have somewhere to stand them on their own. I wouldn’t have thought you made a mistake. The big difference is that I always give any new swarms a frame of brood that also contains some honey. It will often be a frame of brood from a previously caught swarm or a resource hive awaiting a new owner.

If I have to lift a honey super in order to grab one, I’ll do it.

Good luck with it Jack, cheers

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yeah- that’s the plan- problem is I don’t know if the swarm has a queen anymore. Things are relatively settled today- but I have a feeling the Nuc box above is queenless now as the bees coming and going look a bit confused and directionless. I’ll look in there later. If there is a queen I will immediately merge- if not I will have to reconsider the best next step. Probably still merging- and adding a frame of eggs to the hive below so the combined workforce can make a new queen. Only issue is it’s pretty late in the season for queen mating…

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Hi Cathy what does you bait hive consist of and where do you locate it?
I have one but has only been used once.
Thanks

yaaaah ! Late season requeenings is rough n tough. I forgot your downunder n the end of a season as we are getting new Nuc’s n revving up now.

You have any other colonies need beefed up before your winter ?!

Good luck,

Gerald

not really- and I think I have to do something about the colony in question or I doubt it will make it through winter with that failing queen. I have to get onto to the merge this afternoon- will report what happens.

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OK- so I looked in the swarm- no sign of a queen. Just enough bees to cover one frame. So I went to another 3 week old swarm I have and took a frame with a lot of capped brood- and some fresh eggs. I put that in the swarm- the bees immediately changed behavior and started fanning and humming. I hope by now they have already got selected eggs for a queen cell or two. My only concern is there isn’t enough bees- but they have some honey from another frame I gave them- and the capped brood should start emerging over the next few days adding to the population. If that swarm successfully requeens then I go to the box below- pinch and combine in a month I suppose. Just in time for winter. fingers crossed.

Hopefully the other swarm recovers it only had two frames of brood and I’ve pinched one- I also gave it a frame of uncapped honey as compensation… It seems to be a winner- within 3 weeks it had two frames of pristine perfect solid capped brood- with fresh eggs at the peripheries. It swarmed from a hive that’s lived in a fence continuously for over 20 years so the genetics should be sound.

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Hi Gaz, sorry for the late response. My bait hive this time is just a five frame nuc, empty except for a piece of paper towel with a dab of lemongrass oil on it. I placed it about twenty five metres form the hive in a spot scouts have been interested in in the past. No scouts yet this time that I have been aware of…

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