Three hives now... problems, what to do?

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cwinte

Field Bee
***
Joined
Sep 5, 2017
Messages
954
Reaction score
204
Location
West Wickham/ N Kent BR4
Hive Type
National
Number of Hives
3
It's been a troublesome season here. The weather and then the better half wanting to get away to our caravan when we could etc (3 weeks way so far) mean that my observations have been largely limited to the front and observation boards under the OMF. The only good news it is ages since I saw any verroa in any hive.
The bad news seems to be around queens.
One hive started dwindling in April and was about extinct when I got back from Cornwall at the end of May. Not starvation, not disease AFAIK, no sign they tried to make emergency or proper QC - so a bit of a Marie Celeste. Just a mug full of dead bees on OMF and they looked OK, no wing or other obvious issues.
Now hive 2 looks the same way, no queen, no brood, about 3 frames of bees, some stores and pollen, 1% drones... can hive 3 help?...

Hive 3 is super-full, brood and a half and 2 supers (1 almost too heavy to lift, the other halfway).
The deep: is crammed with capped brood and brood just about to be capped, no idea where they will fit when they emerge, bees dense across all 11 frames. No sign of QC, fun cups. A few gaps where recent brood emerged (good lay patterns) have been topped up with stores. Can't imagine where she could lay at present. In fact when I finished my quickish inspect (heat!) I wondered where on earth the queen could lay, or be working - no real signs of eggs or very young larvae but read on shallow..
Shallow: There was quite a lot of drone brood lumping sideways around the base of these frames and bracing to the deep so any lifting out was a destructive mess making. I just pulled every 4th to get an idea after looking at the underside s a whole. Bees pretty dense across the lot, some capped brood and others with pollen and stores (mix of wet and capped). NO sign of a laying area of any great size, could have missed a small zone between one pair of frames but that feels unlikely.

The supers also masses of bees, just possible Q is up there after slimming but the tops of frames looked neat, white caps etc so doubt that. Maybe Q- as of 10 days then? Pollen still going in.
But what would have been the game plan? I assumed swarm prep but no signs (as per other hives).

Ideas?
Could split into 2 hives as I have the empty stand and boxes, at least there would be more room to look and if there is a queen then one hive could have room to lay. plus they's be easier to get at and work with.
I could take the frame of honey but for now I'm waiting to see where it might be needed - a lot of bees to feed there.
I could try and get hold of 1 or more queens from BKA or buy in/ask around.
I could try to top up Hive 2 but can't think of a way that I feel confident would not lead to fights or problems, and anyway still no Q: split into new seems better.

What would you do? PS I only have 2.5 days to Sat, then another week away looms :( unless I refuse to go until it is sorted (which will not make me popular)...
 
PS any one near Bromley/Croydon with a spare QC or two?? Last year I had 12 in one hive about now.
 
A word about varroa
If you see varroa on the bees the colony has a high burden. When did you treat and with what?
When did you last look in?
Are there eggs? Have a good look?
Queen in supers? So you are not using a QX
Find the queen don’t just guess if she’s there
Find out what is really happening inside then make a decision.
It’s difficult if not impossible to keep bees successfully if you are away just when you need to be managing them.
 
Ideas?
Could split into 2 hives as I have the empty stand and boxes,

Long story, but this I caught to my eyes.

The idea of build up the colony is to get it ready to harvest a full crop. If you split the colony, it must start from beginning the build up.ä

If you split the colony at the same apiary, most of bees return to their original hive. What do you think, what the second half on split is. However the splitting ruins the yield. And what is the purpose of splitting?
 
Vaped in multiple sequences in autumn and in Winter to prove falling verroa drop counts each time.
Last look: Yesterday and early May (been a bad year for inspection weather).
Certain no eggs in brood of more than fag packet area since too full, if I shook all bees off each frame there could be some small areas (unseen yesterday under bees) that were not all capped stores but I was not up for that yesterday.
Yes QX in there but slimmed Q can pass through I believe.
MY queens have always been hard to spot so I long since gave up trying to find them, with two brood areas it requires real effort and I have always taken BIAS as good enough for me.
The busy hive is NOT BIAS, nor is the other ailing one.
Agreed on the last, although I have adapted to low impact management and assessments pretty well over the last few years and tend to trust the information I'm getting.

It just does not make much sense to me right now!
Thanks Dani, BTW
 
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The idea of build up the colony is to get it ready to harvest a full crop. If you split the colony, it must start from beginning the build up.

If you split the colony at the same apiary, most of bees return to their original hive. What do you think, what the second half on split is. However the splitting ruins the yield. And what is the purpose of splitting?
I'm not after a big crop, I tend to leave them enough honey to overwinter and have not fed sugar for some years. The hives that died/(are dwindling away) all had capped stores and no starvation signs.
I could locate smaller new colony at original location so more flier/foragers here and move the original box and most resources to the new place (about 3 metres away)?
I am aiming for multiple healthy hives, since just one hive is difficult to maintain and understand, or "read", the season/situation.
But I am still short by at least one queen...

Also if I split the hive (single brood area in 2 hives) it would be much easier to tidy up and do a better inspection of each, see if there is a queen there or not. At present it feels too messy and destructive doing a detailed inspection - although I guess a split is pretty huge disruption to the bees...
 
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Impossible to say, what crop will be. But with splitting you can minimize it.

but diffcult to say then what you are doing.
Problems arise if you leave honeys into combs over winter. Then you do not have empty combs what you will need on next season.
 
Befire you do anything with that ailing second hive look for nosema.
Queens slimmed down for swarming do not go through a QX. It’s the size of the thorax that is crucial. If she couldn’t get through earlier she won’t get through slimmed down
 
I think one needs to get their priorities right either bees or frequent weeks away, they don't go very well together I'm afraid esp when things go tits up. Nothing personnel just an opinion.
 
Befire you do anything with that ailing second hive look for nosema.
Queens slimmed down for swarming do not go through a QX. It’s the size of the thorax that is crucial. If she couldn’t get through earlier she won’t get through slimmed down
All hives have been pretty clean, very little signs of Nosema and poo trails, a tiny bit earlier in the season after they'd been weather constrained... and only a dozen or so trails in total.
 
I think one needs to get their priorities right either bees or frequent weeks away, they don't go very well together I'm afraid esp when things go tits up. Nothing personnel just an opinion.
I agree, but it's not just me - and the lockdown has created unusual impositions on many - my wife has been working right through from home on zoom etc and needs to use holiday or loose it. (Those who were furloughed can have their holiday too anytime over the next 2 years - go figure how she feels on that one!)
 
All hives have been pretty clean, very little signs of Nosema and poo trails, a tiny bit earlier in the season after they'd been weather constrained... and only a dozen or so trails in total.
How old were the queens in hive 1 and 2?
 
All hives have been pretty clean, very little signs of Nosema and poo trails, a tiny bit earlier in the season after they'd been weather constrained... and only a dozen or so trails in total.

Nosema ceranae is more prevalent then Nosema Apis, the forma dosen't cause dysentry as the latter does, so one can't go on the fact that no severe staining has been seen.
 
Nosema ceranae is more prevalent then Nosema Apis, the forma dosen't cause dysentry as the latter does, so one can't go on the fact that no severe staining has been seen.
That is very useful to know, but it seems the only diagnosis is under a good microscope at 400x and a sampling scheme to establish rate of bee infections among nurse bees is key rather than door/dead bees (which tend to have higher rates if there is any). Useful, though USA, was Sick Bees - Part 13: Simple Microscopy of Nosema for Beekeepers - Scientific Beekeeping

It fits that this hive has had the highest death rate around the entrance over the past year, N ceranae being something that gets established and can accumulate.

But then, what could be done?
Fumagillin fed to colonies can suppress the effects of Nosema apis and – where permitted by local regulations – can be administered as a prophylactic or as a control treatment.
No other registered treatments are known.
Have looked around and there seems to be very little help. Fumagillin not licensed in UK and not much evidence it helps N ceranae.

Can samples be sent off? or should NBU inspector called?
Or allow hive to die and be very hygienic with the old kit from them (acetic acid or is freezing actually good enough?) Can't say I've found much definitive on the forum yet...
 
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21156180/:
We found that infection by N. ceranae did not affect the fat body content (an indicator of energy stores) but did alter the vitellogenin titer (an indicator of fertility and longevity), the total antioxidant capacity and the queen mandibular pheromones, which surprisingly were all significantly increased in Nosema-infected queens. Thus, such physiological changes may impact queen health, leading to changes in pheromone production, that could explain Nosema-induced supersedure (queen replacement).

This is also consistent in that I have had problems with queens over the last 2 years. Roger Pattison has mentioned queen losses/instability in several of his talks and I assumed I was just another instance but if this is the cause we need to switch on to how to check for and deal with it better, no?
 
Very useful, THANKS! Still reading through subsequent posts but...
I note post 44 says "Also as a slight side note i have detected no varroa mites in the vast majority of hives,very very few in some,and no oxalic used at all,reminds me of pre 2002 when i always fed thymolated syrup."
Same noted here re verroa in my early posts, maybe they suffer from N.c too :) but I'd rather have the verroa :(
 
One can buy decent used high microscopes for about £50, for low light use i have the clip in light source as well.
Budget (usedmicroscopes.co.uk)

I paid £25 for my SP13 a dozen years ago and is an ideal entry type scope, if you are a member of the LBKA they may have one.
A basic scope is worth having if one can get one for a reasonable figure.
 
Roger Pattison has mentioned queen losses/instability in several of his talks
one of his hobby horses - but no real proof of this from all around the country, maybe it's just that he has bred poor performing queens.
and as an aside - don't ever believe that you have no varroa, not as you're in Kent anyway
 
Hi,

Sorry to hear about your problem.

I too have one hive that is doing very poorly, and I think it is decreasing in numbers. I too am stumped as to what the problem is. Cannot find Q or eggs, they wont make QC if I give them a frame.

The good peeps on here have offered their advice and I am still dont have a clue whats wrong.

So I understand your frustration.

Our work usually rent bee hives from a guy that has 50 hives. I have not actually spoken to him but was told by a coworker that he cannot supply us hives this year because he only has 14 laying queens. He said the early spring weather was so bad and there was so little forage available that his queens shut down and the bees cannibalized any larvae and eggs. This was in May, so I dont know how hes doing now, but we still dont have the hives. I am not sure how accurate what I was told is, as my coworker knows very little about keeping bees.

But whatever the problem with his hives, it seems even the pros run into major issues sometimes.

Sorry I cannot offer any help, but at least your not alone.
 

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