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Author Topic: Swarm with no queen?  (Read 1146 times)

Offline Richard M

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Swarm with no queen?
« on: December 12, 2014, 09:55:22 PM »
A bit over a week ago, I had a call from a friend who had a swarm in their back paddock, so we headed out there to collect and to be honest, it was a bit disappointing, only about the size of a grapefruit; we took it anyway, managed to drop it into an old bee-ified ideal super box with frames of undrawn foundation (all we had to spare). We set up a temporary lid and base board and put it in the apiary for a week while we ran up a deep and frames to permanently house it - we did the transfer yesterday.

I was a little disappointed to find that they'd only partially drawn half of two frames, but on the outside of the box, not in the centre, furthermore I didn't see the queen but then I wasn't hanging around as I was trying to minimise disturbance, dropped two frames of capped brood from each of the other two hives to try to bump up the numbers over the next couple of weeks too and left a top feeder with 3L of 1:1 sugar syrup to help them along.

Had a bad feeling about not being able to see the queen, so went back this morning for another look; well they've already shifted 1/4 of the syrup and drawn out lots more foundation which was half-full of syrup just overnight but there was no cluster and despite low numbers of bees, which scattered as soon as I looked at each frame, no sign whatsoever of a queen - normally I figure that there'd be a reasonable number would stay on the frame and cluster around her but no sign at all, loolked really hard, couldn't see her.

Also, when first opened, they didn't seem to be taking much interest in the capped brood I've given them, they were all in the top super.

So........ I know that you normally wait 2 or 3 or 4 weeks before requeening a swarm but I'm in a bit of a quandary here - is it me being too bloody hopeless to find her or have we lost her? I'm also wondering if maybe it was a top swarm with virgin queen who didn't make it back from her mating flight, especially as until yesterday, the weather has been very fickle, cool, windy, rainy.

If she's gone, then am I better to be requeening now or waiting awhile - bearing in mind there's little in the way of new brood for them to make a new queen. If I leave it a while and they don't make a new queen, am I going to find troubling getting them to accept a new one?

It's a dilemma.

(Annoying thing is that I've been offered two BIIG swarms in the last 24 hours which would have been a much better proposition I think.)




Offline kathyp

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Re: Swarm with no queen?
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2014, 10:37:49 PM »
It may be a swarm with a virgin that is newly mated and not laying yet.  she could have been lost.

fastest way to know is to drop a frame of eggs/very young larvae in there and check in a couple of days to see what they have done.  if they started queen cells, they probably need a queen.  if not, you can wait a bit and see what happens in another week or so.  you will keep your numbers up and not have to worry about laying workers as long as there is open brood in there.
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Offline RayMarler

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Re: Swarm with no queen?
« Reply #2 on: December 13, 2014, 11:31:54 PM »
Richard M says... "but there was no cluster and despite low numbers of bees, which scattered as soon as I looked at each frame, no sign whatsoever of a queen"

This with the rest of your post makes me think it's queenless. Yes, I've gotten a few queenless swarms in the past, it does happen. I'd be throwing in a good queen ASAP, or at least give them a frame with good amount of eggs and covering nurse bees.
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Offline Paul Reyes

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Re: Swarm with no queen?
« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2014, 06:51:59 AM »
Sure looks like there's no queen in there, you should get one. To make sure put in some young larvae if they build queen cells then you probably do need a queen.
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Offline Richard M

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Re: Swarm with no queen?
« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2014, 11:45:13 PM »
Sure looks like there's no queen in there, you should get one. To make sure put in some young larvae if they build queen cells then you probably do need a queen.

This is getting a bit weird.

I checked them out again this morning; they've moved down onto the capped brood I put in, quite a number of which has hatched, so the numbers in there have increased noticeably but still not overwhelming; they're pretty well all clustered on the brood and stayed put on those two frames whilst I took them out and examined them, also every single vacant cell had a single egg in it (ie no multiples at all), however, even after going through the hive, which is still very small, only two deep frames fully drawn, 2 others partially drawn but already filled with sugar syrup, filled, I still COULDN'T FIND THE QUEEN! And that was with 20 minutes stood staring at basically 2 frames. Had a look at others too but no action there.

I didn't see anything older at all though, so could I have a laying worker (but wouldn't I expect to see multiple eggs in cells) or does the queen's abdomen stay a similar length to a normal worker until some time after she's started laying?

My thinking now is to await developments - I'll leave them for say 12 -14 days to see how they look, if ALL of the cells are all enlarged, I'll assume they're drones and therefore a laying worker and take steps to requeen? If they stay worker sized, then I've got a queen (somewhere). The eggs are stood upright at present, so I'm assuming they've only been laid in the last couple of days.

Oh and no queen cells were made but I'm not sure how much suitable brood I had on the frames I dropped in there, so there's a question-mark over that anyway.






Offline Culley

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Re: Swarm with no queen?
« Reply #5 on: December 26, 2014, 02:50:57 AM »
Sounds like there could be a queen in there. I would wait and see, as you said.

Why have you got a super on it though? sounds like too much room.

Is there any nectar / pollen coming in down there?

Offline sawdstmakr

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Re: Swarm with no queen?
« Reply #6 on: December 26, 2014, 07:57:08 AM »
Sounds like there could be a queen in there. I would wait and see, as you said.

Why have you got a super on it though? sounds like too much room.

Is there any nectar / pollen coming in down there?
X2
Sounds like a good queen. In a week or so I would check it again and reduce it down to a single box until they draw out the frames and are covering most of them.
Jim
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Offline Richard M

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Re: Swarm with no queen?
« Reply #7 on: December 26, 2014, 09:43:06 PM »
Hi Culley,

I went for a quick look yesterday arvo whilst doing the Xmas round of socialising; the activity in the (smaller) swarm hive has exploded, so looks like the capped brood from the other two has emerged and boosted numbers considerably; I took the photo below during a lull in activity, when I got up there it was pretty crazy at all three hives - it's strange how it waxes and wanes and waxes over 30 minutes or so; I've got the entrance 3/4 blocked off so we had a bit of a tussle and jockeying for position happening there for a while, but no robbing and only half dozen or so dead bees on the ground in front.

The nectar seems a bit fitful this year, we had a super dry spring, gums have had a rolling flowering happening since early September, which is now almost over; blackberries are happening at the moment. Very disappointingly, the Prickly Box ( http://www.apstas.com/bursaria.htm) just don't seem to be happening this year - they're in flower everywhere about Hobart, Eastern Shore, Midlands, Derwent Valley etc but seem to have completely failed in the immediate locale of our apiary, whereas only 10km away, they're flowering well. I had a look at some stands near or hives yesterday, there are a few buds but nothing compared with last year when the whole hillside was white.



The knackered old super (holed - duct taped over) was all we had to hand when we went out and caught the swarm on literally 60 mins notice before it got dark, we put frames with undrawn foundation in there, and duct-taped some corflute sheet to the bottom of the box; after we'd dropped the swarm in there (they were hanging off a tyre stuck in a fenceline) and taped a screened inner cover over the top, that's how we brought them home.

We left them in there for a week to settle down; when it came to putting them into a deep box, they'd already drawn out a fair bit of the foundation and put some honey in , so didn't want to deprive them of that. After only another week in the brood box/ideal super, they'd drawn out more comb in both and split the sugar syrup more or less 50:50 between the two, so I figured to leave them in there as is, if they're happy.

All this buggering about with different sized boxes has convinced me more than ever to progressively phase out the deep boxes in the future, and maybe just run the three we already have in a single hive. Thinking our future Ideals will be from Nuplas too - they're only $3 dearer than bare radiata pine boxes and they don't need glueing or painting - ever. Seems like CDF - wish we'd known about them when we were first starting out.

Hi Sawdstmakr,

I think so too. I'm probably having a look this afternoon if weather stays ok, so will have a better idea then. If they're going ok, I'll do minimal interference for the rest of the season, just add supers as and when needed, then look at requeening it with something that's more of a known quantity next Sept, when I change the other two.






Offline Richard M

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Re: Swarm with no queen?
« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2014, 04:02:03 AM »
Sounds like there could be a queen in there. I would wait and see, as you said.

Why have you got a super on it though? sounds like too much room.

Is there any nectar / pollen coming in down there?
X2
Sounds like a good queen. In a week or so I would check it again and reduce it down to a single box until they draw out the frames and are covering most of them.
Jim

Hi Jim,

Yep, new queen is laying, the new capped brood is all workers, so no dramas after all, although I've still not found her yet; I took an experienced beekeeper friend along and he couldn't see her either; they're calm and friendly enough though, so we'll keep her for now and requeen in September (spring) - if I can't find her then, I'll have to resort to some brutality involving everyone being shaken out out over a queen excluder.

There's some pollen coming in but the biggest problem is lack of drawn comb for them to put it in, so I've dropped a gallon of sugar syrup in there to give them a kick along with drawing the other 4-6 frames of foundation.



The prickly box has just come in down there and the blackberries are going crazy, so hopefully, once they've drawn enough comb, they'll start laying in some honey too.

Offline rwlaw

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Re: Swarm with no queen?
« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2015, 10:06:47 AM »
You just don't see her running up your arm and setting on your shoulder LOL.
I had a queen last year, smoke/no smoke, any trick I knew. Still couldn't find her, finally I saw her fat butt sticking out of a commutation hole in the comb. Cagey little witch, had to admire her survival  instinct tho.
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Offline Richard M

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Re: Swarm with no queen?
« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2015, 08:12:04 AM »
You just don't see her running up your arm and setting on your shoulder LOL.
I had a queen last year, smoke/no smoke, any trick I knew. Still couldn't find her, finally I saw her fat butt sticking out of a commutation hole in the comb. Cagey little witch, had to admire her survival  instinct tho.

Hah!

We finally saw her at the weekend. Funny thing was we weren't even looking for her at the time; there's been lots of good brood and always fresh eggs so we'd given up.

Offline Wombat2

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Re: Swarm with no queen?
« Reply #11 on: Today at 03:26:42 AM »
I have a similar situation with a small swarm. I'm running to about 6 weeks now - no sign of a queen ( 2 weeks ago - the weather has been bad  1st 40*C  now 7 inches of rain ! Hope to get in there this weekend . Bees coming and going and heaps in the lid visible through the vents
David L