Two Hives went Queenless and a Lucky Swarm
P. Michael Henderson
This past fall, I lost two hives (out of four) by the hives going queenless. I have no idea what happened. It was not a swarming time and there were lots of bees in the hives, but no queen and no brood. I combined them with one of my other hives. [Side note: when I combined one of the failed hives with another hive, I put a brood box from the failed hive on top of the good hive, above the excluder. Then I decided to leave it there as a honey box. When I harvest I take frames so I shouldn't have to lift the box full of honey. That hive also has three supers on it and I need to get one off when I next harvest. So for honey, that hive will have one full sized box and two supers.]
It was way too late in the year for them to make a new queen if I gave them a frame of eggs. There would be no drones for the new queen to mate with. That's the problem with keeping wild bees - you can't purchase a queen because no one breeds wild queens.
I took the woodware of the two hives and put them outside away from the bee yard. Yesterday, Judy noticed bees around one of the empty hives, and later, it was obvious a swarm had moved in. I opened the hive this morning and there were lots of bees in the hive. I had two brood boxes and two supers on that hive so I took one of the supers off. There were so many bees in the lower super that it would have been very difficult to get that one off - without major upset to the bees - so I left that one on.
Here's a picture of the hive with the bees in it, after I removed the one super. I had just stuck the hive back out of the way. A lot of the bees were in the super but the queen has to be below the excluder.
I'll feel better after I move the hive to the bee yard. It's in a bad place right now, too much traffic by it.
A couple of days later, about February 22, my neighbor came and helped me carry the hive back to the bee yard. I took the excluder off and discovered that the top brood box didn't have any frames in it, so I removed the second brood box. Now, it's just a full size brood box and a super, with no excluder.
[Update 3/13/2022] The problem with the hive was that I didn't have it full of frames. I took one of the brood boxes off because there were no frames in it, and filled the super with frames. Some of the super frames had drawn comb and the bees had settled on that to begin work - so the hive now is a brood box and a super with no excluder. [Note: my covers have insulation in them, so they only go down about an inch on the box. I found that insulated covers reduce moisture build up in the winter and keep the hive cooler in the summer.]
I went into the box today. They've settled in the super, drawn comb where there was none, and the queen is laying. There was lots of brood in the super and lots of bees in the hive. I suppose this hive is going to be one brood box and one super for brood instead of two brood boxes. As they grow, I'll put an excluder and supers on the box.
I'm really glad to get another good hive after two hives went queenless last year.
[Update 4/1/2022. The hive got too agressive when it got larger so I killed it.
My beekeeper friend called me about a swarm she had and I picked it up. So far, it's doing well. It's growing in size and is docile. I picked up another swarm from her but there was no queen so I combined with with the first one she gave me.