Too late to start laying?

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House Bee
May 20, 2009
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SE Scotland
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I finally managed to get into my colony this week, as the weather seems to have finally turned dry and still enough for a proper inspection.

There's plenty of stores in the hive, a small, but reasonable number of bees (tightly packed over 2 frames, and a good number wandering about elsewhere), and the queen moving about on the central 'empty' frames, looking healthy enough. However there was no sign of eggs or brood anywhere.

I've heard of queens turning into drone layers, but not failing to lay altogether. The bees are foraging, and all the returning bees are bringing pollen in (though there's a decent enough amount of pollen in the frames too).

A second hive at the apiary has a laying queen in it, and I'm tempted to take some eggs from that hive and transplant them in if there's still no sign of laying by this weekend - I figure if the queen is being slow, they'll just raise the brood, but if she's stopped laying they'll try to supersede her.

So I have 2 questions... is this unreasonably late in the year for the queen to decide to start laying? Its been pretty cold up here in Edinburgh (especially overnight) but we'd had 3-4 days of 'good' weather before my inspection in which she could have got going.

I'm also wondering though if its too late in the year now to try for supersedure? Will the winter workers last long enough to raise young brood from a new queen, or would I need to keep putting in brood from the other hive to boost their population?

Any advice greatly appreciated!
Supercedure usually takes place at the back end of the year.

I might do as you are thinking and give a frame of eggs and young brood and see if it kick starts her. Then again is it worth it?

Given there are only a couple of frames of bees that you are trying to rescue you have to ask yourself is it worth the time and hassle? Not to mention holding another better unit back?

I would find and kill the queen, and either shake the bees at the door of your best hive or unite with news paper, and to be honest I would just shake them and take a nuc of the donated to colony later in the season.

Is there a group of cells polished and ready for brood? As Poly Hive says, not so much there to hold on to.

With only a small number of bees the hive may be too big, and thus too cold, for them to sensibly rear brood, so they are holding off for warmer times (it's the workers which will dictate if she lays (if she is able to). Close it down to the minimum size you can with tight fitting dividers and if healthy add some hatching brood - eggs or larvae will be no good if there are not enough bees to stop the larvae chilling - insulate wherever possible and cross your fingers.

If healthy you can at least unite later if necessary and use those bees you have added.

Supercedure? You will need hatched and matured drones from somewhere. PH was probably right to say 'usually' regarding supercedure timing but any time a failing queen is detected they will replace her. Not in your case, but quite often if the colony is big enough to swarm and she was a 'swarmed' queen already, they may well replace her before they swarm.

Regards, RAB
I have the same issue with one of my over wintered colonies which superseded the original queen in September 2009.

I opted to transfer them into a 4 frame nuc box and transferred over the best frames of stores and added a lump of pollen and drizzled a little sugar water over some of the frames for good measure in case they needed a little encouragement to prompt the queen into laying.

If they survive then its great news, but I'm not going to rob a frame of sealed brood and bees from another hive just to try and save them as it would take 5-6 weeks to rear a new queen and see any signs of the new queen laying.

I have seen smaller units trying to make a go of it and yes I agree move them into a nuc.

However if I was to handle the frames I would be shaking them.

Sometimes all you just have to bite it and get on with it. Make the so wanted increase later on in the season.


However if I was to handle the frames I would be shaking them.

I most certainly would be, down here at this time of the year!

My second suggestion (after agreeing with yours) was simply an alternative, as we don't really know too many details - origin and type of queen, real comparison with other hive, hive details, etc.

Regards, RAB
I am hearing lots of reports of failing overwintered queens this year.

On inspection there are 2 frames of bees loads of polished cells reading to be laid in and a queen walking around doing nothing.
I am hearing lots of reports of failing overwintered queens this year.

On inspection there are 2 frames of bees loads of polished cells reading to be laid in and a queen walking around doing nothing.

Tha assumption in such cases, as in this thread, is often one of supersedure, where the resulting queen has failed to mate.

Perhaps so. However, we know that any unmated queen will start to lay eggs, and they will of course be unfertilized drone eggs.

Pont being that sometimes an overwintered queen can stop laying at the end of the season and just not start again. Or a laying queen can just stop laying altogether. This phenomenon can be attributable to Nosema infecting the queen. With no eggs being layed the colony eventually withers to nothingness.
Could be nosemic Queen.

:iagree: There were many queens imported into the uk from an Island in Polynesia last year that are starting to get reports of Nosemic queens that are failing to lay this year.
Will the Q return to laying if the hive is treated with Fumidil B or equivalent or is that her done ?

Darren, once they get nosema they will never be any good,damage is permanent.
I am hearing lots of reports of failing overwintered queens this year.

On inspection there are 2 frames of bees loads of polished cells reading to be laid in and a queen walking around doing nothing.

Just yesterday in a Polyhive I saw a colony in the east midlands where there were only eggs and the Queen walking about laying. She was one of about a hundred that was a very late starter; her colleagues were heading up colonies that had four or five frames of brood on average. The colony in question was far from weak though, having plenty of bees to go around.
I went up to the apiary again this lunchtime to see if there was any change in the state of the hive.

There was a small patch of capped brood (maybe 50-100 cells?) in one corner, with some uncapped larvae, so I'd obviously missed some eggs on my last visit - not for the first time :) None of it looked like drone brood, and there was no sign of queen cells, so I think the queen is ok, if a little slow.

I've put the problem down to small colony size and the cold weather - I've taken the advice given here and reduced the hive down to 5 frames, with a dividing board to seal off the rest of the hive so they're not wasting heat keeping it warm. I'll leave them sealed up now and let them get on with it - either they'll have a strong colony in a month's time, or they'll have died out... only time will tell.

Thanks once again for all the advice!

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