Late Queen Failure /Drone layer

In October I put mouse guards on one of my Warré hives.  The weather was a warm 18 degC and bees were foraging hard taking in much pollen.  A week later in the late afternoon, of a warm, 17 degC day, I revisited to place a windproof tube of commercial roofing felt around the hive.  I noticed a significant change in bee behaviour.  There were dozens of drones returning to the hive and a few worker bees still taking in pollen.

I had seen drones being evicted from other hives in late August and September so this was an unusual observation.  I decided to check inside the hive.  The topbox was almost full of stores; with a dome of capped honey sitting above masses of pollen in cells covered with a layer of wet honey.  One comb had a 3″ diameter patch of sporadic drone brood.  The next box down had little stores, many empty brood cells and 4 combs with about a 4 inch diameter of sporadic drone cells;  a few cells had eggs and developing larvae;  there were no sealed worker cells and I saw no queen.

I decided to cull the colony, shake the bees next to a small but queenright colony and harvest stores and wax.  I moved the hive next to the queen right hive the evening of my initial inspection.

The following day I noticed bees and drones were attracted to the queenright hive.  In the late afternoon, which was dry and warm, and helped by Ciemon, I moved the hive about 5 yards away and dismantled the boxes. I dusted bees on combs with icing sugar and brushed or shook them off combs onto a board infront of a queenright hive.  Beeless combs were placed in a fresh box and covered to prevent bees returning.  Two pieces of  comb with open honey was put on the board to allow bees to pickup a ‘bribe’ or gift for entry to the new hive.  Some bees clustered on the sides and under the roof of the new hive.  Gradually individuals entered the new hive while others were fanning and exposiing their Nasenov glands around the entrance.  Drones were often refused entry.  After a couple of hours and as the evening was chilling, most of the bees were inside the hive.   The pieces of honeycomb were covered with a roof and, in the following early morning, moved, with attendant foragers and wasps, 20 metres from the hive site to confuse potential robbers.   The drone brood areas of comb were cut out of the brood combs and will be burnt.

My action might seem drastic to some.  If left, the bees would not have survived winter and the colony would likely have sucumbed to wasp and robber attacks.   I have reinforced a small colony and harvested 3 or 4 kg of honey as well as retained a few pieces of clean lightbrown comb for a bait hive.

John H, Stockbridge Hants

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One Response to Late Queen Failure /Drone layer

  1. johnmkubwa says:

    I don’t know how this message appeared on Dec 4th but the cull and shake occurred on 8/9th October. The receiving colony was active a week ago, with the occasional drone still flying. I doubt the bees will fly at below 6 degC so I will have to revert to using my stethoscope (remove the drum and insert the end of the tube into the entrance) to listen to quiet hum of the cluster, in order to reassure myself all is well.
    JohnH Stockbridge Hants

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