Queen balled - perplexed

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Joined
May 26, 2021
Messages
245
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Location
Salisbury
Hive Type
WBC
Number of Hives
5
Did a split 3 days ago moving a marked queen, three frames of brood and plenty of bees from one hive to a new empty one. Re-checked today to see how she was settling in.
Found the three frames of 'old' brood and 2 frames of new eggs. Hurrah.
However on one frame found a pile of bees apparently engaged in mischief. It soon became clear that the marked queen was under them and appeared to be being balled insofar as they were climbing all over her and she appeared to be being rolled around by them. A few minutes later she'd dropped off the frame and the activity continued on the floor of the hive.

What might be going on?
 
Did a split 3 days ago moving a marked queen, three frames of brood and plenty of bees from one hive to a new empty one. Re-checked today to see how she was settling in.
Found the three frames of 'old' brood and 2 frames of new eggs. Hurrah.
However on one frame found a pile of bees apparently engaged in mischief. It soon became clear that the marked queen was under them and appeared to be being balled insofar as they were climbing all over her and she appeared to be being rolled around by them. A few minutes later she'd dropped off the frame and the activity continued on the floor of the hive.

What might be going on?
The workers decided to ball her by the sounds of it. Did you try and rescue her? Usually it's fatal from what I've noticed here, although I have rescued them at times.
 
Did a split 3 days ago moving a marked queen, three frames of brood and plenty of bees from one hive to a new empty one. Re-checked today to see how she was settling in.
Found the three frames of 'old' brood and 2 frames of new eggs. Hurrah.
However on one frame found a pile of bees apparently engaged in mischief. It soon became clear that the marked queen was under them and appeared to be being balled insofar as they were climbing all over her and she appeared to be being rolled around by them. A few minutes later she'd dropped off the frame and the activity continued on the floor of the hive.

What might be going on?
I did a split 4 days ago moving the Queen from the mother hive into a nuc with brood, food, foundation and some shakes of bees. Today they look like they are trying to break her out of the nuc, not gently either 🤦‍♀️. I’m thinking that they are wanting to swarm with her, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up killing her
View attachment IMG_5080.mov
 
I did a split 4 days ago moving the Queen from the mother hive into a nuc with brood, food, foundation and some shakes of bees. Today they look like they are trying to break her out of the nuc, not gently either 🤦‍♀️. I’m thinking that they are wanting to swarm with her, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up killing her
View attachment 40203
That's an unusual one!
 
I've hit on an explanation which might hold water. I'd be grateful for comment.

The original set of bees in the hive where I witnessed the balling yesterday was a large swarm I collected nearly 3 weeks ago. They were installed in the hive but appeared to be Q- insofar as after some 2+ weeks there was no laying and I could find no queen. I decided to unite those Q- bees with a Q+ colony in the next hive. That unite seemed to go well.

At the same time as removing those bees from the Q- hive I put the laying queen previously referred to from another hive into that hive with three frames of brood and a good number of 'her' bees. She appeared to have laid up a couple of frames of eggs before the balling that I saw yesterday.

Might the explanation be that the bees united with the hive next door took 24 hours or so to eat through the newspaper (thus giving the queen in their old hive time to start laying) but that the flying bees then returned to their old hive in such numbers as they overwhelmed the newly resident bees there and killed the queen (if she's dead - I need to check today)?
 
With respect, I don't think that I did. If so, then they would have killed the queen in the colony I united them with, rather than the one that was subsequently put into to the hive that they had vacated.

It is of course possible that it was a swarm with a virgin queen. But it was a huge swarm (twice the size of the other) and so I concluded that it was a prime swarm. Maybe I was wrong.
 
Prime swarms leave with virgin queens. If the beekeeper has clipped the old queen and she becomes lost while swarming, then the swarm goes back into the hive and leaves with the first emerging virgin queen. Also there could have been multiple virgin queens in the swarm, that are then whittled down.
 
Yup, maybe my mistake was assuming that it was a Prime. How long would you normally leave a hived-swarm before becoming worried about it being Q-?
 
There is still time before the queen in the swarm starts laying. Did you add a test frame before taking the decision to add a queen and frames?
 
I didn't, no.

But just to clarify, I didn't add a queen to a [Q-] swarm. I united the Q- colony (a housed swarm)* with a Q+ colony (ie, moved the former to the latter), which appears to have gone well. I then put a different queen and her followers into the newly vacated hive - the one left empty by moving the Q- colony.

I'm merely postulating the idea that flying bees from the recently moved Q- colony may have returned to their old hive (into which in the meantime a new queen and bees had been installed) in sufficient strength to end up killing her. Otherwise I can't understand why the bees in that colony should turn on their established queen in the way that they appeared to do.

*accepting that I might have prematurely judged it to be Q-.
 
Once you move a hive leave the space empty and don't replace with a weak colony that the foragers from the previous occupation can come back to. The simple answer then, is that the foragers have balled an alien queen.

Have you recently inspected the other hive with the possibility of 2 queens. Virgin queens can take 3 to 4 weeks at least to come into lay. Has the united queen been marked?
 
Prime swarms leave with virgin queens. If the beekeeper has clipped the old queen and she becomes lost while swarming, then the swarm goes back into the hive and leaves with the first emerging virgin queen. Also there could have been multiple virgin queens in the swarm, that are then whittled down.
Very interesting divergence in our views here. I don't clip queens. Every source I've read assumes a prime swarm ALWAYS has the old, mated queen - it's essentially the definition of a prime swarm. It reads like you come from a different tradition where "prime" simply means "first". What are others' understandings of "prime"?

I've seen a first swarm which was a cast. In that case the old queen couldn't fly and 8 days after some failed attempts to swarm, another swarm emerged with a virgin queen. We called that a cast.

I've also seen prime swarms with the old queen and at least on virgin in the same swarm. That's a prime.
 
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If I remember right "primo/primum" can also mean "best" so perhaps with an already mated queen, is a better proposition than an unmated virgin.
No wonder there's confusion! 🤔😁
 
Primo: to begin with; first; of the finest quality. Prime swarm headed by old queen or virgin would be all of the above it is the biggest swarm.
 
I started beekeeping 43 years ago, as JBM the first swarm is a prime swarm, headed either by the old queen or virgin. The old timers who taught me said the same.
Thanks for the clarification. Reading around, there do seem to be different assumptions by different sources. In future I shall have to be careful to define my usage, when using this term.
 

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