queens not laying

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Allen Dick
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What makes a Great Beekeeper

Unread post by Allen Dick » July 20th, 2017, 4:31 pm

This discussion got me thinking. We don't post a lot here, but lately, bee behaviour and human politics came up. I'm not too sure that they are unrelated.

I'm starting a new thread at http://honeybeeworld.com/forum/viewtopi ... 1926#p6798
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karen
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Re: queens not laying

Unread post by karen » July 22nd, 2017, 4:48 am

I get a lot of emails from beekeepers and try reply, usually very brief for lack of time. This one is related to this discussion of why a queen will stop laying or slow down.

"Good Morning,

I went in on Monday and looked for signs of a queen in the hive I have been telling you about.
Backstory is that it had a new queen on 6/28.
I looked on 7/12 and saw eggs in four queen cups but saw queen and all brood. I thought crowded because there was a little backfilling. So I opened the broodnest and added a box.
On 7/16, I checked for more swarm cells but instead found tons of emergency cells, none really along the bottom like the other day, no eggs, no queen and very loud hum. So I gave them a frame of eggs.
On 7/17, I checked again and there were no eggs, no queen, still incredibly loud and lots more emergency cells on the faces of the frame except on the frame of eggs I gave them so I pinched all and moved a frame with two queen cells to a strong nuc. From that nuc, I removed the queen with four frames of open and closed brood and did a newspaper combine with a few drops of peppermint oil and closed up.
I peeked in the top two boxes today, I see eggs in the top box but not tons. None in the next box down but no new queen cells. I am reluctant to disturb them further. It's early and lots of bees are still home so I got stung by a kamikaze bee (first time I got stung by my bees and not someone else's) but they were tolerant. They were quiet until I closed up when I often hear the noise ramp up.
My current challenge is to not panic so should I be patient a few more days? Does this sound bad? Do queens typically start at the bottom and work up? I didn't want them to reject her because I am mucking around but I am running out of time. Or maybe they have killed her already.
Any insight would be appreciated."


To tell the truth I barley remember the hive this beekeeper has been telling me about and could not find anything in my email history so it could of been a phone call or an emptying of trash. My answer was "There are two reasons for this queen to pause in her laying for a while. 1. The the stress from combining hives. 2. The start of the dearth. Don't stress her or the bees further by mucking around in there. Give them time."

One thing I see is sometimes when I give a queenless hive a frame of eggs they get rid of the eggs. I always try to give a frame of mixed brood, some larvae young enough to make a queen. I do not depend on them using an egg because so many times I have seen them remove eggs.

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Re: queens not laying

Unread post by Allen Dick » July 22nd, 2017, 8:39 am

I always try to give a frame of mixed brood, some larvae young enough to make a queen. I do not depend on them using an egg because so many times I have seen them remove eggs.
As I recall, Mel recommends breaking down the lower edge of several cells that contain larvae of the correct age to initiate the start of queen cells.

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Re: queens not laying

Unread post by Allen Dick » July 22nd, 2017, 9:07 am

Also, I never intentionally break down queen cells. I figure the bees know what they are doing. If a hive looks intent on swarming, I often split, leaving cells in each half and provide more space, often under the splits. That does not guarantee that there will not be a swarm, but nothing does except weakening a hive beyond usefulness.

If a hive that shows signs of swarming hive is still flying a lot, I sometimes move it back or place a weaker hive right in front to catch the excess bees.
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Re: queens not laying

Unread post by karen » August 10th, 2017, 5:38 pm

I last looked at the walkabout queen around 7/20. It has been 21 days since I put her in the hive. I have been away since 7/23 and just looked in the hive today. There are new eggs and young larvae on a frame. The larvae are about 6 or 7 days old. I saw the queen and she seems small, though her brood pattern is nice on the frame she laid. The other frame has capped brood from the queen I pulled when I put this one in, it is a 2 frame box. I don't know exactly how long she was in my customers hive walking around before I replaced her, I know it was more than 2 weeks. May be she was in there 18 days and was on the verge of laying when she was moved into one of my breeding boxes. Then it took her three weeks again before she could lay or was willing to lay.
I have seen small queens change into nice big queens within a 2 weeks of laying so her size shouldn't be a problem.
Saturday someone is coming to buy a queen to replace a walkabout Buckfast queen they got on July 12 so she has been in a hive for 35 days. They imported her from Canada. I asked him to please bring me the Buckfast queen and told him about the walkabout queen that I had. At the time of our conversation I didn't know my queen had started laying. I will put the Buckfast queen in one of my 2 frame hives and give her until I have to combine the breeding boxes for winter.

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Re: queens not laying

Unread post by cgybees » September 6th, 2017, 8:58 am

beecavalier wrote:
August 22nd, 2015, 3:08 pm
..and that many queens had disappeared with no sign of supercedure....Another observation I have made is newly mated queens becoming drone layers at slightly higher rates......new swarms with drone layer queens.
Anecdotally, there were really bad issues on all the forums I read last year in the US with queens poorly mated. Last year's packages from New Zealand locally imported to southern Alberta seemed to be terrible all around - much higher than usual queen lack of acceptance, poorly mated queens, etc. From my own experience, I bought 4 packages and 75% of them failed to last.. one vanished as you've described, one became a drone layer, one died out early spring with no supercedure, and one swarmed early, and left 32 queen cells, only 2 of which were viable laying queens.

This year's NZ queens look better so far, but anywhere I've had to replace I've started using California queens, and so far, wall to wall brood and good strong hives with those.

I tried out a locally produced queen last year, but the nuc failed to overwinter, just too small / too late a start on it, so I can't speak to that very well, but it doesn't seem people are having as much trouble with the locally produced queen stock.

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Re: queens not laying

Unread post by Wisewoman » September 18th, 2017, 8:52 am

This has happened to one of my hives as well. So glad to have found this thread.
Some background:
I have two hives...we are located in west-central WV. I just started beekeeping this spring. One hive is from a nuc I bought locally from a very highly rated breeder the other is from a swarm that was caught about 50 miles from here. They have both been doing very well all summer. I have been feeding both 1:1 sugar water since the beginning as I was advised since they are new 1st year hives.
I treated with MAQS following all instructions given on Aug 25, 2017. Removed strips 7 days later. Checked hives on Sept 10th to make sure all was well and noticed there was no larvae, capped or otherwise in the hive that I purchased. The workers were all working and seemed content. The queen was there and seemed quite healthy as far as I could tell. I watched her for quite a while. She was walking around all over the frame like she was inspecting it. I didn't see any eggs but they are hard for me to see anyway. I decided to give it another week and check again. The other hive was fine with larvae in different stages though it seemed they were a bit grumpy and I didn't see their queen who is unmarked and I don't always find her.
So I checked again on Sep 17, 2017, yesterday. The one hive from the swarm was fine and I did see the queen, so that one is good. Checked the other one and still no larvae or eggs and it seemed all the cells are filled with nectar, where there was brood before. Mrs. Queen was still happily walking about not doing her egg laying duties. Both hives have stores of honey, nectar, and pollen, plus room for expansion. I'm just worried that the Walkabout Queen hive will not make it as winter approaches. Also I didn't mention and don't know if it's important that this hive has a screened bottom board and the other hive (Swarm Hive) has a solid one...its the only difference in the setups.
Should I replace the Walkabout queen or give her more time? Maybe pull brood from the other hive and see if that entices her to lay? I just don't know...did I mention I'm very new at this?

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Re: queens not laying

Unread post by Countryboy » September 18th, 2017, 3:36 pm

I have been feeding both 1:1 sugar water since the beginning as I was advised since they are new 1st year hives.
1st year PACKAGES should be fed. Swarms and nucs usually do not need much feed, even if they are first year hives.

When do you plan on stopping feeding? How will you know when you have fed enough?
Checked the other one and still no larvae or eggs and it seemed all the cells are filled with nectar, where there was brood before.
Where is the queen supposed to lay? She won't lay eggs in cells that are full of nectar or honey, and you say all the cells are full of nectar.

That is known as being honeybound.

There's a lot of info you haven't told us. How many boxes do you have on the hives? Are they plugged out with sugar water? Are you still feeding, and how much are you feeding?
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Re: queens not laying

Unread post by Wisewoman » September 18th, 2017, 10:30 pm

They both have one deep and one medium. I added the mediums at the end of June when they had drawn out 7 of 10 frames in the brood chamber. They are still drawing on the outside 2 frames as well as up in the medium boxes.

I feed them around 3 quarts a week though they have slowed down on it in the last 2 weeks due to fall nectar flow I assume. There are still a LOT of bees in both hives but I'm sure that will change in the one with the queen not laying.

I had planned on feeding them all the way through the winter if they still needed it, but adjusting. the type of feed (pollen, 2:1 syrup, fondant) as their needs and the weather changes.

The nectar filled cells are a new developement. When I inspected 2 weeks ago the cells where there had been brood were just empty, now it looks like they have filled them with nectar. I don't know where the queen would lay now.

Previously there were 5 frames with brood in the middle and honey, nectar and pollen in an arc over top of them, all beautifully arranged like they're supposed to be. 2 frames full of capped honey on the 2nd and 9th frames. The honey frames are still there, I hadn't planned on taking any this year.

Should I switch a frame from my other hive? Is it advisable to maybe shake the nectar out of the frames? I have hope that she will start laying again, maybe just wishful thinking actually.

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Re: queens not laying

Unread post by Countryboy » September 19th, 2017, 6:52 pm

I feed them around 3 quarts a week though they have slowed down on it in the last 2 weeks due to fall nectar flow I assume.
Do you know what happens when you assume?

I would be more inclined to believe the reason the bees stopped taking the syrup as fast is because they don't have any room to store it. You overfed them, and now they are plugged out.
I had planned on feeding them all the way through the winter if they still needed it, but adjusting. the type of feed (pollen, 2:1 syrup, fondant) as their needs and the weather changes.
How do you know what their needs are? How will you know if they don't need fed?
The nectar filled cells are a new developement. When I inspected 2 weeks ago the cells where there had been brood were just empty, now it looks like they have filled them with nectar.
Backfilling the broodnest with nectar is the last place bees put nectar. If this happens in the spring, the bees swarm.

If it happens this time of year, the queen doesn't have room to lay eggs so the bees can raise winter bees, so once the summer bees die off, you won't have enough winter bees to survive.

Place, bees need clustering space of empty comb for their winter cluster. If all the combs are plugged out and the bees don't have clustering room, they die.
I don't know where the queen would lay now.
Houston, we have a problem.
Should I switch a frame from my other hive? Is it advisable to maybe shake the nectar out of the frames? I have hope that she will start laying again, maybe just wishful thinking actually.
#1. STOP feeding the bees syrup!

You're not going to be able to shake the nectar/honey out of the combs. Extracting the syrup honey out of about 3 or 4 deep frames is an option. Place these empty frames in the middle of the bottom box.

Adding a box of drawn comb under the deep box would be my recommended solution.
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Re: queens not laying

Unread post by Wisewoman » September 21st, 2017, 10:21 am

Thank you for your suggestions Countryboy. As I don't have any drawn comb, other than what are in my hives, I will take some from the outside and move them in. I will check again next week.

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Re: queens not laying

Unread post by Countryboy » September 21st, 2017, 1:26 pm

What about honey supers? Use honey supers.

Or have you been feeding all summer without ever giving the hive any room to expand?

You can also add a box of foundation below the brood boxes to act as clustering space.
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Re: queens not laying

Unread post by Allen Dick » September 21st, 2017, 1:34 pm

You can also add a box of foundation below the brood boxes to act as clustering space.
That is a very good idea, and some even use a box without frames.
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Re: queens not laying

Unread post by Wisewoman » September 24th, 2017, 10:28 pm

Just a follow-up: After moving the outside 2 frames, which were partially drawn plastic frames, to the center of the box, I checked them today and the nectar had been removed from the 5 center brood frames. There are a ton of eggs, lots of larvae and even a few capped brood. Mostly eggs.
I did not quit feeding the 1:1 syrup as Countryboy advised because I didn't feel as though I was overfeading and I don't believe that this syrup is what the bees had in those cells. I could be wrong but this was my feeling. In any case, the Walkabout Queen is now laying!! Could be because of the rearranging of frames, or not. Could be coincidence and she just decided to start again because the workers made more space for the nectar. Or it could be God answering my prayers.

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Re: queens not laying

Unread post by Wisewoman » September 24th, 2017, 10:34 pm

Or have you been feeding all summer without ever giving the hive any room to expand?
No, as I said before, I added a medium super to each hive at the end of June. They have a little bit of honey stored in the center and are still drawing out the frames in the mediums.

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