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Building comb on the outside of hive

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Inkman 

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One of my colonies at an out apiary has started to build comb on the outside of the hive. Last Thursday (9/9/2010) when I went to inspect the hives I noticed that a number of bees were congregating on the front of one of the hives (see picture below)



I initially presumed that the congregation was due to a combination of it being a hot day, reduced entrance size and the fact that the hive was on the fourth week of Apiguard treatment.

However when I opened the hive for inspection there was no sign of the queen and no eggs or uncapped brood. There was however very few empty cells, except for two frames of undrawn foundation, for the queen to in lay due to the amount of stores they had brought in. So I decided that the colony was either Q- or the queen had stopped laying due to a lack of space or the Apiguard treatment. I put in a test frame to check the status of the queen.

I returned to check the results of the test frame yesterday (14/09/2010) and found that the bees were still congregating on the outside of the hive but had now started to build comb on the outside of the hive (see picture 2 below)



Activity around the hive seems to be normal with bees still bringing in pollen and have emptied 1.5li of Syrup since Thursday. There are no signs of fighting and the bees seem if anything more calm than normal. The result of the test frame was Q- by the way.

To give you a bit of background about the colony the bees are from a young 2010 hybrid queen and are in a British standard national hive and were covering 6 frames with two undrawn frames of foundation.

So my question is why would the bees start to build comb on the outside of the hive when there is still space and undrawn foundation on the inside of the hive?

Since the test frame suggests that the colony is Q- is it possible that the queen has moved outside the hive with half the bees leaving the rest of the bees inside? There were no queen cells in the hive before I added the test frame so it doesn't seem to be a swarm based on my limited experience.
 
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Inkman 

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Sorry the pictures are missing. I will try and fix it.

You can see the images in my album
 
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drstitson 

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Looks like you've had a small swarm occur which hasn't bothered to go far. Presume queen is in midst somewhere. Have you tried knocking/scooping them all off (with the wax) and putting back in the hive?
 

starflex 

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You may have a new queen who has got her self stuck outside the hive, after returning from mating. Happened to one of my hives earlier this year. The workers started building under the OMF. Have a good look and see if you can find her, or if there are any eggs in the new comb.
 

Inkman 

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Looks like you've had a small swarm occur which hasn't bothered to go far. Presume queen is in midst somewhere. Have you tried knocking/scooping them all off (with the wax) and putting back in the hive?
Thanks for your reply. Yes, I did that yesterday. But I would have thought that one of us, my brother was also there as another set of eyes, would have seen the marked queen in such a small set of bees.

If it had been a swarm should there not have been queen cells in the hive? We checked thoroughly and didn't see any.
 

Inkman 

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You may have a new queen who has got her self stuck outside the hive, after returning from mating. Happened to one of my hives earlier this year. The workers started building under the OMF. Have a good look and see if you can find her, or if there are any eggs in the new comb.
I've checked the wax and there were not any eggs in it.
 

drstitson 

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newly mated queen

How many days is it generally after mating that the queen starts to lay - i didn't think it was immediate - so lack of eggs does not exclude new queen???
 

Inkman 

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How many days is it generally after mating that the queen starts to lay - i didn't think it was immediate - so lack of eggs does not exclude new queen???
The comb has only been built over the last four days so a lack of eggs wouldn't surprise me if there is a new queen on the outside of the hive.

There haven't been any queen cells in the hive for a new queen to hatch from though?
 
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Midland Beek 

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As per previous posts, it is possible that a queen may be on the outside of the hive. It may be a new and non-laying type or it might indeed be your original one, but you perhaps would have spotted her if that was the case. This phenomenon is perhaps more to do with supersedure than anything else, and your old queen could have left with a small swarm.

Because of the scenario which has presented itself, I would discount what the test frame has told you. I would open up the entrance and use gentle smoke to get the bees inside the hive, and then fit the entrance block. Break off the comb on the outside of the hive.

Then in a few days I would do the test frame again.
 

Inkman 

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I returned to the site today having moved the bees to move back into the hive and removing the external comb on my last visit.

As soon as I opened the hive I noticed the queen happily wandering about on one of the frames. There was also plenty of eggs and brood so she seems healthy enough.

I guess she was stuck on the outside of the hive and that some of the bees followed her while the rest stayed inside and built emergency Queen cells. Although how we failed to find her on the outside of the hive and while we chased them back into the hive I will never know!

Thanks for all your replies and suggestions.
 

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