Wind Disaster on Day 2 of a New Colony -- Need Advice

Last year we lost our colony in the Flow Hive to mysterious queen death.
This year we’re equally unlucky but we need help… We installed our Nucs (two this time), in two separate Flow Hives spaced 200 feet apart. We did this exactly 24 hours ago.

Nuc 1: Had an excessive amount of bees but I couldn’t find the queen (but evidence that she was there was everywhere).

Nuc 2: No queen, 1/4 the number of bees as the first Nuc, and 5 queen cells that looked fully capped to me, but I’m not an expert and haven’t seen this before (just from looking at photos).

TODAY – Horrible 50mph (80 kph) gusts blew over Nuc 1 hive (the good hive) and scattered the frames completely upside down in pouring rain. By the time I got my bee suit on and was able to attempt to put the frames back in the box at least 50% of the bees were already dead or dying on the ground – the frames from the Nucs were covered in water and the bottom board was filling up with water from being exposed.
The bees attacked me mercilessly and I was only able to get 8 frames put back in the correct order with whatever was clinging to them. Put the wooden cover on, and ran to lick my wounds (about 30 stings).

It’s since rained twice more and won’t stop till tomorrow morning but the wind was a one-off at the lead of the front that already passed so there’s no more wind in the forecast (other areas 10 miles from me got quarter size hail so I count myself lucky since we own an orchard and that would have devastated us).

What should I do now? Should I try to go in the hive tomorrow? Should I leave it alone for a week to let the bees do whatever they are going to do? Is it already a lost cause?

On Nuc 2 which did NOT blow over or suffer any damage, should I interfere with the queen cells? I already contacted the supplier of the Nucs and they have not responded to me.

Thanks for your help. Last time I needed advice you were all so kind and so helpful. We really appreciate it.

-Kevin

Simple solution - buy two more nucs.

More complex one.
You may try to save whatever is left. Combine colonies. Do it ASAP as soon as you have a break in the rain. Remove unbuilt frames from queenless colony and replace them with frames with bees from the drowned one. Don’t mix frames. Each colony must have a group of frames of its own. After removing unbuilt frames from the queenless, move what is left to a side and fill the rest with frames from the drowned one. Move frames occupied by bees the most. If there are more frames than an available room, shake the remaining bees from the drowned colony on their frames. Mind the heat loss. Work really fast. As soon as you moved the queenless colony frames to a side cover this part of the hive with something. A rag will do. Use plenty of smoke when combining colonies.

General observations.

Make sure that your hives are fastened to the ground, so the next one-off doesn’t overturn them.

Why do you think it may be necessary? There is a good chance those cells is all that you have between two colonies queen-wise.

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Wishing you good luck with this, Kevin! Down here in PA this same weather front elicited a tornado watch & whipped up some drama in the skies for about a half hour, but never amounted to anything like what happened up your way. Last September several tornadoes did come through here and missed my neighborhood by only 3-4 miles. I use ratcheting straps to fasten down my hives to the large heavy wood bench they’re on, which is set firmly into the ground a couple inches. Good for most high winds, but they’d have to be underground to be safe from a tornado.

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Eva,

We have straps here, which makes it even sadder since I could have done something if I’d realized the approaching front had such power. By the time I got the weather alert it was too late and the front was on top of us.
There was a break in the weather to sunshine right after the “event” and many of the bees that were outside found their way back to the hive I put back together which I took as a good omen. I emptied the standing water from the bottom board today and put a feeder on top of the inner cover which was immediately used by the bees.
Since we have the entire season ahead of us and I have a baited swarm catcher in our forest I decided to let the hive either right itself or (if the queen survived) rebuild itself if they decide to do that. The queen less Nuc already had queen cells in it so I’m letting that hive just requeen itself if it can because that was a decision they already made. So I have two “?” hives and one baited swarm catcher – time will tell – at its worst it will be a learning experience as is everything with beekeeping.

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How many times have I told myself to check those dramatic stories carefully before answering…

Event:
Amount of rain:

User:
First post:

Visits and reading time since then:

Don’t I feel like the flaming idiot :rofl:

Update: Everyday I’ve been adding a liter of 1:1 syrup to the top feeder which they windblown colony has eaten each day. This will be the fifth day of adding a liter to the top feeder. They are coming and going from the hive without hesitation, especially yesterday which began a warm streak here (today it’ll probably reach 90 degrees)

I’m still thinking I won’t try to go into the hive until Tuesday which will be 8 days from them being blown over and suffering losses. Am I correct to look for 1) emergency queen cells which would be 7 or 8 days old at that point – 2) eggs which would indicate the queen survived and they are just trying to put their lives back together?
Thanks for the help.

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That’s great news, Kevin - sounds like a good plan to me!

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Update on Windblown and Queen Cell Nuc Colonies:

Hello everyone… I went into the hives today for inspection (10 days after installation for the Nuc that arrived with queen cells in it – Hive 2 – : and 9 days after the heavily populated Nuc with a laying queen was blown over and tipped in the pouring rain 24 hours after it had been installed).

The results were not at all what I expected and I’ll list them one at a time. I took videos of both inspections and I’m going to take stills to post showing what I’m about to describe:

Hive 1 (windblown hive):

  • There were individual eggs in individual cells that were very obvious and easy to see across a large swath of one of the combs. This leads me to believe the queen survived even though I have still not laid eyes on her (because I’m terrible at spotting them).
  • The hive was FULL – there was no more space for these poor bees. The 1 gallon hive feeder had been tipped out during the storm and not replaced with anything so they had filled the void with honeycomb attached to the inner cover. Many many more bees survived the windblow than I estimated.
  • Their temperament was not good. It’s 65 degrees and partly cloudy right now and they were in a bad mood even after smoking them.
  • There are now two queen cells in this hive where there were none during installation. They are both on the bottom of two separate frames. This made me think they were going to swarm because they feel like they have no more room.

I placed another deep box on top. Moved two drawn out frames up into the new box, and refilled their inner feeder with 1 gallon of 1:1 syrup. I did not smush the queen cells and am now thinking I should have and that that was a big mistake.

Hive 2 (small hive - Nuc that arrived with no queen):

  • These bees were much happier and in a much better tempermant than the first hive.
  • The queen cells that I’d seen on installation were ALL GONE. There was one cell that looked like a shriveled peanut but the multiple full capped queen cells that I saw on installation day, 10 days ago were no longer there.
  • There were eggs clearly visible (one per cell) in a large segment of comb (comb that came with the Nuc and wasn’t newly drawn out).
  • They only had drawn out 1/2 of two frames I put in during installation and they had finished 2/3 of a gallon of syrup in 10 days with 1/3 of a gallon still in there. Total number of drawn out frames is 6 (maybe 6.5 if you’re generous)

With these observations is it correct to conclude that the hive successfully produced a new queen, she killed her rivals, mated, and started laying all within 10 days of installation? Does the timing work for that?

Does the hive disassemble queen cells after they are no longer needed leaving no trace they were there?

I put the second box on this hive as well even though I know it’s not quite large enough for it yet because I wanted to leave them be for the next two weeks now that I believe they have a functioning, laying queen. We still have a healthy nectar flow here with lots of flowers.

Of all the outcomes I could have found I feel like this was one of the best; I just think I made a mistake in not squishing the queen cells being made in hive 1.

Thanks again for all your help.

-Kevin

Only if there was a queen ready to emerge at the time you installed the nucleus. From egg to queen takes 16 days. Then at least another 2-4 days for mating, and usually another week before her ovarioles develop enough to start laying.

Yes, but they can take their time over it.

I wouldn’t have done that - it is more space for them to defend and heat, and they may not have enough bees to do that. I would inspect again in another week instead. :wink:

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Thanks for that advice and info! I know you’re totally right about that second box on the second hive. What are your thoughts on the two queen cells (I think they might be swarm cells) the bees in the first box were constructing on the bottom of two frames. Should I try to stop them or should I let it go and then try and catch the swarm if I can?

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I would read this booklet. It is a bit overwhelming at first, but the information is priceless.

In your situation, I recommend a split, as described on p23 onwards - the modified Snelgrove 2 split. :wink:

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Thank you so much for that resource. I’m diving into it now.

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Kevin,
The hidden consultation is that you’re teaching the rest of us newbies so much with your bad experience and the subsequent responses. I live at high elevations in western North Carolina with occasional high winds. It never occurred to me that I should strap my flow hive down. So thanks for that.

Joe

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I’ll always strap down during winds here after this experience but what I also learned was how incredibly resilient the bees turned out to be. After having been tipped over, exposed, upside down, in pouring rain and being violently shoved back in the box they just picked up, cleaned up, and moved on. I’m absolutely amazed.

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Hi Kevin, that’s a great learning experience for you. I thought of you as I discovered a hive had been knocked over by a cow. In both supers the frames were exposed to heavy rain. I was probably lucky that it only recently happened, otherwise hive beetles would have taken over, by taking advantage of the dead bees & damaged brood. As I said on another topic, it all went back together nicely, with the queen still alive, the need to swap 2 brood frames out & shaking all the rainwater out of the frames.

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Update: The story of Hive 2 (the non windblown hive) might be coming to a close. I inspected yesterday and they were building (not quite ready for the second box I had put on but they had drank all their syrup and were just about ready for that new box (they had 7 full frames, both sides between two boxes – and 2 frames one side).

But today, just now, I went out to tend the orchard and they were beginning to pour out of the hive.
This (I took a video but can’t upload it) is the beginning of what they became a torrent. The bees are leaving the hive en masse.

I don’t know what to do now. Should I see if they beard in the pine tree next to the hive which is where I would cluster if I were a bee. Or just let it happen and go in to see what remains after it’s done.
I’m thinking my inspection may have pissed them off and they don’t want to live there anymore. I’m really a newbie at this (is that even a thing?)

-Kevin

MAJOR UPDATE:

Ok… so I wrote that last message to you guys, went outside, and found the swarm on the pine tree just like I predicted. They landed on the side away from the wind about 5 feet off the ground, and immodestly clustered there.

I realize what I did next was not ideal but we only have the equipment we have here right now and don’t have a supply store anywhere near us. I took the Nuc box the bees originally came in, sprayed one spritz of swarm commander inside, put in two frames, and placed the old sugar water frame feeder inside it.

I cut off the branch with the swarm which was very easy to do and just gave it one big shake into the box. Immediately put the top on. Opened the tiny door, and put the branch next to the tiny door. About 30 bees perished with me trying to get the poorly constructed plywood cover on.

I assume the queen landed inside and is in there now because all the bees that were outside, marched inside just like I’d seen in videos.




I have SO many questions but I’m going to try to focus on major ones:

  • What will they do now, as a cluster?
  • Should I move that box to a new location away from where they swarmed to stop the scout bees from telling them somewhere else to go?
  • Should I close off the entrance at any time?

Next Steps?

Thank you so much for putting up with my first time naïveté on this. I really appreciate the help.

-Kevin

Hi Kevin, it sounds like your colony is either swarming or doing a practice swarm.

I’m just reading your MAJOR UPDATE:

Q1.if it’s a practice swarm, the colony could go back to the original hive (temporarily).

Q2. I would take the swarm away, so as to make sure the bees don’t do as in your question. I would always give them a frame of mostly open brood to hold them, just in case they decide to look for a more suitable home.

Q3. Only close the entrance while moving the hive.

PS, well done in catching the swarm.

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Thanks so much for that quick advice. I could go into my large hive (the hive that blew over in the wind but was so robust it recovered and take one of its frames with brood and place it in the Nuc box with the swarm. Then move the entire box to a new location.

I’m going to setup to do that right now.

You’re welcome, that’s a good idea Kev. & exactly what I would do. Take the feeder out & fill the box with empty frames to hold the frame of brood secure. cheers

PS on second thoughts, it will be challenging to remove the lid because most of the bees will be hanging off it. You might have to open it, with the frame of brood ready to sit next to them. Then once the brood frame is covered with bees, gently place it in the box. Then prop the lid up for a while because it will be difficult to get it down without killing a lot of bees.

You can probably drizzle some honey on the frames to draw the bees away from where you want to put the lid down. Plus some smoke can drive them away.

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