chaos in my hives

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lily the pink 

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Firstly apologies if I have broken the rules by copying this query from an existing thread to a new one, but it's a request for help not just a comment.

I'm still a newbee, and here in mid Norfolk the weather for the last three weeks has been mostly cold and wet. Since this is my first spring I've been torn between wanting to see what is going on in my two hives, and not getting them cold.

So in the half hour between 3 and 3.30 that was dry yesterday I tried to do a quick examination.

Both hives are showing the same presentation. Lots of stores still, in the super and some in the brood frames though most appears crystallised. (Is this possibly ivy, not sugar syrup?) Lots of bees. No worker brood. Scattered drone cells, and hatched drones. No sign of the queen but I've never seen either of them long enough to mark them, so I've been relying on evidence that she is there. One or two queen cells but I didn't examine every brood frame.

All together it looks like a bomb site, with the drawn comb having a very uneven level.

Little evidence of varroa last year and testing showed minimal nosema.

We have two fields of OSR within easy reach but it doesn't look as if my colonies are going to be able to take advantage even if the weather dries.

What do I do next? Feed syrup? (Put feeders on both hives yesterday evening in desperation.) Try to borrow two frames of eggs and brood? Borrow one frame and combine the bees? Wait and hope? Or put an ad on ebay for two hives, hardly used?

Thank you.
 

enrico 

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Ok, I think you just need to be patient! If you can get a couple of frames of brood from someone else then wack one in each hive as a test frame. If they make queen cells you know your queen has gone with a swarm or died, but to be honest this weather is playing tricks. The queens have probably gone off lay. Let the weather warm up and see what happens. If there s food n there then no need to feed more!
As far as the comb goes I am afraid this is what happens. The first year it is all even and pristine, the second year they chew holes in it, build it out in places, drone comb sticks out all over the place and your lovely hive is spoilt, but that is how it goes, sorry!
E
 

drstitson 

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ok so you overwintered on brood and a half?

no worker brood with scattered drone is not a good sign - either laying workers or DLQs. how many workers left and how many drones.

the queen cells - on face of comb? open? occupied? fresh wax around lip?

when did you last inspect hives? early autumn? or late march/early april?

sounds like late failed supercedure to me. now so far into season that the workers are wearing themselves out raising useless drone brood without replacements for themselves.

are the QCs in same area as the current drone brood or elsewhere on comb?

whether or not you can find the queens is academic now i think. Both colonies sound doomed. UNLESS you still have decent numbers of workers present and not many drones. It could be that bees have swarmed 3+ weeks ago in which case you might have a little old drone brood left to emerge.

give us the info and we'll let you know how dire things really are.

First tip - you need to pluck up courage to go against old rules and make a very quick inspection on a warm day in late feb or early march.
 

drstitson 

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re the iffy comb - how many frames are you using and what format?

great talk at BBKA yesterday by bob smith - demonstrated nicely why well assembled, square, proper hoffmans (with bottom of side bars 8mm narrower than top - 4 & 4), wide top bars and wide bottom bars, tightly lined up in brood box with dummy board, prevent lots of brace/free comb issues.
 

Cazza 

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Hi LTP
If you need some test frames and live not too far from me you would be most welcome.
Cazza
 

jackbee 

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re the iffy comb - how many frames are you using and what format?

great talk at BBKA yesterday by bob smith - demonstrated nicely why well assembled, square, proper hoffmans (with bottom of side bars 8mm narrower than top - 4 & 4), wide top bars and wide bottom bars, tightly lined up in brood box with dummy board, prevent lots of brace/free comb issues.
he was good, shame I just bought my cheap frames lol
 

Poly Hive 

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First of all the OP needs test farms ASAP.

Brill offer of help so grab it with both hands.

Buy cheap and pay dear applies in beekeeping as in many other fields.

PH
 

drstitson 

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actually given the price of the seconds frames one could probably buy some wider bottom bars and still be quids in.
 

Erichalfbee 

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Hi LTP
If you need some test frames and live not too far from me you would be most welcome.
Cazza
That's such a generous offer.....grab it.
 

Firefly 

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Are you in a BKA? Put the word out - you'll be cheered by how kindly beekeepers can be in times of woe (as you have already seen)

In exactly the same situation as you, I have been given a test frame by one neighbour and a whole colony (the was otherwise due for combination) by another

Shame it's been too cold to find out what any of them are actually doing!! I'm sitting with everything crossed watching bees going out and pollen coming in, but no idea what's really going on in there

:nature-smiley-12:
 

lily the pink 

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Thank you all. Just having some support makes me feel a lot better.

Yes, they both over wintered on a brood and a half (National) and I use DN4 frames in the brood box, but with narrow bottom bars. I have eleven frames in the brood box – a dummy board wasn’t mentioned by the beekeeper who installed the nucleus I bought from him. Are they a good idea?

I inspected the 'half' on each hive about three weeks ago to see what the stores situation is, but not the brood box, since the only days over 15C have been while I was 20 miles away at work!!

The queen cells I saw were on the face of the comb and didn’t look like the chunky big ones they produced last year while they were swarming (three weeks after they arrived and with empty brood frames still to draw).

I didn’t look closely enough to see if there were any closed ones, as I was desperately trying to find some sealed worker brood. Some evidence of larvae but I don’t know whether they are going to be more drones.

I find it hard to know how many bees I saw in the hives. I read something yesterday about stunted drones, from converted worker cells, and I didn’t really notice much difference in size. All the frames seemed to be well covered in bees, and in the odd sunny patches today there has been lots of activity with bees bringing back pollen, which they have been doing every time I’ve seen them out.

Cazza, that’s a very generous offer. I’m near Attleborough, but I do know an established beekeeper near me, so I’m going to see if maybe she can help out, now I know more about the problem.

And again, thank you all for your time and experience. (Poly Hive, what is an OP please?) I just wish the bees had read the books…
 

lily the pink 

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Thank you erichalfbee! :blush5: (not sure that's going to work...)

I am part of a BKA but haven't had much contact lately so it seems unfair to expect help.

I've emailed a local beekeeper to see if she can help.

I will send progress reports.
 

tonybloke 

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Thank you erichalfbee! :blush5: (not sure that's going to work...)

I am part of a BKA but haven't had much contact lately so it seems unfair to expect help.

I've emailed a local beekeeper to see if she can help.

I will send progress reports.
hiya lily,
I'm the swarm co-ordinator for S Norfolk, and have a list of beekeepers local to you, (and phone numbers)
one of them is sure to help,,
pm me your phone number, I'll give you a couple of numbers to call
 

lily the pink 

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I have an appointment with a local beekeeper later this week when work and weather permit. She is of the opinion that the weather has put the queens off lay, but we are going to try a frame in one hive as a test.

Thank you Tonybloke and Cazza - I hope not to need to contact you :nature-smiley-011:
 

psafloyd 

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Have you run out of medicinal compound? I've heard it's most efficacious in every case.
 

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