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What is the best way forward?

My friend (who is also fairly new to beekeeping) gave me a colony from a cutout he did. Im not sure how many bees were left behind, there was three frames with comb from the hive held in with elastic bands. I transferred them into a 5 frame box 12 days ago. Today I did an inspection to find that (to my novice eye) there doesn’t seem to be a queen. There was no larvae, and no fresh brood that I could see. There was also no stores of honey at all. I’m not sure what the best way forward is from here. Could I put in a frame of capped brood from my other hive and they would make a queen?

They wont make a queen from capped brood. You need brood that’s less than 3 days old, or fertilized worker eggs in order for the bees to make a new queen. BIAS (brood in all stages) would be ideal, that way you have brood from newly laid eggs, up to emerging bees. You might also consider introducing some nurse bees to help the colony along. If the first frame doesn’t work, repeat in a week to 10 days time. Keep doing that until you start to see emergency queen cells.

The reason for larvae 3 days & under is because brood at that stage has only been fed on royal jelly. Once they start feeding bee bread to the larvae, I think it’s too late for them to be able to raise queens with them.


Thanks Jeff, I will put a frame in there today.
So what would the bees do if nothing was done, would they eventually just die out?

Yes :cry: :cry: :cry:

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Yes that’s correct, the colony will die out. A colony that is without a queen, on top of being past the point of being able to produce one is doomed. However a decent size colony doesn’t die in vain because a worker will start laying unfertilized eggs to produce as many drones as the colony can with the idea that those drones have the potential to pass on the colony’s dna.

Going by those photos, it looks like the colony is quite low in numbers, that’s why I suggest to introduce a frame or two of nurse bees, as well as the frame of BIAS. That way the frame of BIAS will have a decent covering of bees on it, with hopefully a few to spare on the adjacent frames.

Give the donor colony a decent amount of smoke, before waiting a few minutes. Then shake the bees off two brood frames onto the ground or a blanket on the ground, while making sure that you don’t have the queen on the frame/s. The bees that have done orientation flights will return to their hive leaving the nurse bees on the ground. After a few minutes, place the receiving hive’s entrance adjacent to the nurse bees. Then sit back & watch the nurse bees go into the receiving hive, where they’ll be readily accepted.

The reason for smoke is to make sure that the older bees have enough honey to be able to fly back, otherwise, as I found out, a lot of older bees that have no honey on board can’t fly, so therefore they crawl with the nurse bees into the receiving hive, have a drink before going back to the donor hive, which just gives us a false idea of how many nurse bees we added. Unless we take the donor hive far away shortly after.

Thanks for that excellent information @JeffH !
I put the frame of BIAS in today. So how often is too often to open up a hive?
My other concern having opened my other hive to donate brood from… is that they don’t seem to have any honey stores at all. I don’t really understand, because it seems there are a lot of flowers around that are always covered in bees. So would it not be a good idea to collect nurse bees from this hive, as the other bees wouldn’t have honey to eat?
I’m hoping that just putting a frame of BIAS in by itself hasn’t been a waste. It seems the further into my beekeeping journey I go the more curve balls arise haha

You could always feed them with white sugar syrup. Most people use 1:1 sugar to water via an in-hive feeder. :wink:

Yeah I might have to do that. Just wasn’t expecting to have to feed them at this stage of the season!

In 2020, I had to feed my bees for the whole year - spring, summer and autumn. That is why inspections are so helpful. You can assess the food stores and colony health, and then intervene if needed. You can’t assume that they will be OK, if you care about them surviving difficult times. Just as crops fail in human agriculture, nectar flows fail for bees, even if plants are flowering. Beekeeping is tricky stuff sometimes!


Beekeeping is full of curve balls, welcome to my (& @Dawn_SD 's) world.

I did notice that nuc was desperately low on honey, if any which I should have mentioned. Sometimes we need to feed our bees. I have some nucs in my yard of which a couple needed feeding yesterday, just to tie them over til the weather fines up. I have a jam jar with a couple of holes in the tin lid, which I filled with honey before placing it on two sticks on the floor where no frames occupy in a ten frame brood box. With the other colony, I poured thin beads of honey along the top bars of the frames.

Both those strategies work for me as a short term feeding solution. I’d strongly recommend that you consider feeding those bees, one way or another.


PS I started typing last night before getting side-tracked. Consequently I forgot to finish it, so I finished it this morning, not realizing that @Dawn_SD had given similar advice.

I also have nucs at my main bee site. I’m having to feed some of those as well. In those cases I use half filled honey frames from normal hives, which works well.

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Yeah I absolutely want to help them through the tough times. What could make a nectar flow fail?

Thanks Jeff, I will organise some feeding shortly. I guess naive me just thought that spring/summer they would be ok.

You’re welcome @Wrenhill , I sometimes let my guard down when I’m doing splits. I have to keep reminding myself to include honey when a lot of the frames are about 99% brood, especially when I take them out of the center of the brood box.

I added a bunch of nurse bees to a colony yesterday, on account that it was a bit light on numbers, with not much support for the new queen they raised. I had another colony in a similar situation, so I added the brood frame that I shook the bees from to it. That frame had a lot of emerging bees, which will help that colony greatly in the coming days. I’m heading out shortly to see how they’re going.

Yeah I feel like it will be touch and go for my nuc, as I have limited resources as I have only just started this year. Do you ever feed with sugar syrup?

Lack of rain or cold weather, usually. :wink:

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I just now walked in from checking. The first colony where I added the nurse bees looked much better with some new eggs on one frame that I inspected.

The second colony where I added the frame of brood was not so good because young brood on the outer edges died & went black, on account that there wasn’t enough bees to completely cover the frame. It looked like hive beetles damaged one small part. The colony had 2 lesser frames of brood that consisted of a lot of drones from a previous laying worker that the bees were also trying to protect. So what I did was remove them so that the bees only had the one large frame of brood to protect. That was before I added more nurse bees from a second donor hive, as well as more honey. I gave those lesser frames of brood, one each to the donor hives.

I’m finishing this reply the following morning:
In your case there’s no need for that nuc to be “touch & go” while you have that stronger hive.
All that’s needed is just enough bees to cover & protect that frame of brood you added. The donor hive will recover in time & the nuc will hopefully make a new queen before it slowly builds up, with possibly a little bit more help from the larger hive a bit later on.

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Thanks again for your help Jeff, extremely helpful indeed. I’ll let you know how I go