Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bees, Yeah! Bees, Aargh! Bees?

This has been a very good spring and summer for a lot of people keeping bees.  Not so much for me.  Taking a positive view, it looks that I am getting to experience everything that can happen with bees in the first two years of keeping bees, so my experience level will be higher than all those other people that have everything go perfectly.

After my dead hive due to a multitude of issues, including heavy mite load, losing a queen and foul brood, I thought things were going to be getting better.

We took the one hive left at the hay field and split it.  We couldn't find the queen, but there were a lot of queen cells in the double deep hive.  The goal was that each hive would take at least one of the queen cells in each split and make a new queen.  That worked for one hive, but not the other.  The other hive turned into a laying worker.

After a couple weeks, I moved the hives to my house so that I could keep a closer eye on the hives and give them the attention that they deserve.

The same thing happened to the hive at Possum's garden.  No queen to be found and lots of queen cells.  A similar split was made and the same thing happened.  One new queen and a laying worker.  Since these hives weren't going to be moved, it was decided to combine the two splits using the newspaper method.

Things I learned combining hives using the newspaper method:

  • Don't do it on a windy day.
  • Be sure to bring some tape with you.
  • It doesn't hurt to have an assistant to guide you as you put the hives together.
After a few slight setbacks based on the things I learned, the hives were combined.

Checking back one week later, things looked to be going good at the garden hive.  The paper was gone between the hives and the cells were all cleaned up in the laying worker hive.  At this point it seemed to be working and I decided to do the same thing with the hives now at my house.

Not so fast.  The hive with the queen was going gang busters.  I had put a second deep hive body on and they had drawn out about seven of the frames.  The brood pattern looked beautiful.  But the single deep with the laying worker?  Wax moths.  Lots of them.

After taking off the newspaper on top of the double deep in anticipation of the combining of the hives, which was taped on by the way, I had to figure out what to do with the laying worker/wax moth hive.

Looking online and talking to a few people, there really isn't much you can do with the wax moths other than freeze the frames to kill any larvae and try to reuse the frames as possible.  

In the end, there were only three frames that I felt were salvageable.  The frame shown below was probably the frame in the best shape and it is a mess!

There are now three frames that just came out of the freezer and are sitting in the basement waiting to be used.  I feel sorry for the hive that gets these frames and has to do all the work to clean it up.  Most of the larvae were picked off and all the webs were pulled off for the most part.  

The goal now is to keep these frames and make a split in the next couple weeks from the double deep that is going strong.  I'll get a new queen so I don't have to rely on them to make a queen cell, which will allow them to get going and get strong enough to make it through winter.

The garden hive I was able to split into the original double deep that will make a queen, a single with the existing queen and a nuc that will make a queen.  When I made the split, I moved the single with the existing queen and the nuc to my house in an attempt to keep a closer eye on the hives.  The original double deep stayed at the garden.  

So now, the current status is a double deep with a queen, a single with a queen and a nuc making a queen at my house and a double deep making a queen at the garden.  I'd like to get four hives and a nuc going into winter, but time will tell if everything plays out as planned.  Bees aren't always known for cooperating.


  1. I've never heard of a laying worker, would you mind explaining?

  2. A laying worker is when a hive is queenless for a few weeks due to a number of possible reasons. Once the hive is queenless for a long time, one or more of the worker bees will start laying eggs, but they will all be unfertile since she was never mated. This causes all the eggs that do get fed and hatch to become drones. There will be no more worker bees and eventually the hive will die out because there will be no more bees to continue and the drones don't do anything.

    This is very difficult to fix and I got lucky using the method I mentioned in the post. If you look online, there are many other possible ways to "fix" a laying worker problem.