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Week 2 of beekeeping and WHAT IS GOING ON HERE

 
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Hello all.

This is my first year just establishign my little homestead in northern Indiana, and I am currently on week 2 of beekeeping. and wow has it already bee a wild ride.

the short version is that of ym three hives, 2 of them, and especially one of them, have been causing me no end of worry because I have no idea what is going on with them, other than that Hive 3 is quite weak, and I now have reason to think that Hive 3 and maybe hive 2 are both queenless already.

I have kept a log og my activity and observations, which is below, and I would seriously LOVE it if some experiences keepers could look this over and try to help me make sense of this. Before I post the log, I have just a few data points about my setup which may or may not matter:

- I am keeping Russian bees, from a certified Russian breeder
- I have 3 hives, each of them a 10-frame, wax-coated Hoover hive
- I observe the hives every day from the outside, sometime twice a day. I=Hives 1 and 2 I see many bees coming and going, often returning with pollen. Hive 3 is often sluggish, little coming and going and relatively few bees returning with pollen.

Log is as follows, and for those that read and try to help, I thank you from the deepest part of my heart. I love these creatures and I really want to help them thrive in my care.

May 9 - Pickup packages in South Bend. Install Package 1 in evening after rain ends. (NOTE: Per advise of breeder, all packages were installed with 2 deep boxes to being with: 10 frames in bottom box and 4 in top box, until 1st inspection. Top box frames were finished being added when queen cages removed
May 10 - Morning: notice no activity outside installed hive. Inside all bee not moving, queen on back. Assume dead.
Clean out hive by dumping all "dead" bees in grass. Bring empty package to shop. Call Doug (Breeder) and explain.
He says some packages may have got too wet on drive to pickup ('twas rainin'), bees may have chilled overnight. Says to install other 2 packages (both alive) and call him in a day or two to let him know how they are. Go to install other 2 packages, notice that there are bees flying around the door to the shop where I left the 1st "empty" package
Installed other 2 packages this afternoon; no issues. Notice some bees already buzzing around near where the "dead" ones were dumped. Assume that some actually survived their cold night, but not most.
Put my only entrance feeder on hive 1.
May 11 - Inspect other two colonies (henceforth referred to as colonies 1 and 2). Both alive and beginning to draw comb. Called Doug and reported; says he will meet me next day with replacement.
Place the only entrance feeder to side of hive 1, hoping both hives will find and access it.
May 12 - Meet Doug 40min away for replacement package pickup. He recommends installing ASAP (do not wait for evening).
Transport colony home, on the way, notice faint foul odor from package. Assume is normal for mass amount of confined insects.
Install colony ~3hrs later. Notice some dead bees in pile when dumping out box, but nothing appears wrong. Released queen immediately due to length of confinement already being about 7-8 days.
She dives into colony and seems healthy. Used change to buy beer.
Placed the other 2 feeders in the entrances of hives 2 and 3.
May ~13 - *Guestimating on date because I have a turnip for a brain* To post-install check for replacement colony (henceforth hive 3). Notice some dead bees where I unceremoniously dumped the pile, but not many. Faint foul odor still present.
Find cluster of bees in corner by entrance, signs of comb being drawn on nearest frame. Moved some frames to inspect remainder of hive.
Find think mat of dead bees on bottom board on this side of hive; this is source of odor. Removed box, checked for live bees in this area, then swept dead bees out. Left in ground
in front of hive as I was unable to successfully rake them up (long grass at this time). Cannot find queen, despite low number of live bees in hive. Become concerned.
May ~14 - After feeding chickens in the morning, observe large number of bees on the feed container from the hive 3 package, which was left outside the hive on the ground.
Next to this is a small cluster of bees crawling on something in the grass. Cannot identify why they are there, no sign of sugar source or a queen I can identify.
Figure bees are being bees and decide to allow them to sort themselves out. Later changed mind and scooped the workers on the feed container into hive.
Did not touch smaller cluster as they were in grass and harder to handle.
May ~15 - After feeding chickens in the morning, notice smaller cluster of bees from yesterday is still there on the ground, crawling around. GO to observe and notice queen in the center of the cluster.
Assume this was the (presumed) missing queen for hive 3. Got smoker, smoked the ball, scooped up the ball of bees, including queen, and place her back in hive 3. Got stung by one as I scooped them up, However bees were not aggressive and do not appear to be attacking queen. Also assume she would have been dead by previous if this was the case.
May 16 - Do 1 week inspection of hives 1 and 2. Observations:
Hive 1:
- Heavy activity. Good number of bees.
- Comb drawn out on 3 frames. Beginning on 4th. Some burr comb. Remove worst burr comb.
- Remove queen cage and place remaining frames in upper box.
- Find multiple cells with eggs. Bee bread and green honey in many cells.
- No propolis found
- No pests found
Seal hive and move to hive 2.
Hive 2:
- Good activity and good number of bees.
- Comb drawn out mainly on 2 frames. Beginning on 3rd.
- Remove queen cage
- Find queen on last frame. Do not proceed to check for eggs or brood, as she is alive and seemingly well.
- Many cells with green honey, some with pollen.
Seal hive and decide to check #3
Hive 3:
- Observe live bees in corner. Some burr comb drawn, but do not remove as this appears to be the only comb the hive has drawn so far.
- Hive population is small, as expected, due to number of dead bees from install.
Cut inspection short do to reluctance to disrupt the only drawn comb of weak colony. No brood or queen observed.
May 21 - Large number of ants seen on outside of hive 3. Open lid to inspect. No large number of ants seen inside. Nothing major seems to have changed from last inspection.
Brush ants off outside and kill some larger ones. Close hive without further intrusion.
May 24 - 1st major inspection. Observations as follows:
Hive 1:
- Large population. Multiple frames with drawn comb (only 2 fully). Some burr comb, which is removed. Eggs and larvae observed on multiple frames.
- Green honey and bee bread found on all frames. Capped drone brood found on 1 or two frames. Other frames have what I guess is capped honey, but may be capped worker brood.
- Queen found on final frame.
Seal hive and move to Hive 2
Hive 2:
- First two frames have drawn comb with green honey and some pollen. Good number of bees and activity in hive.
- of the frames with comb, middle frame has multiple queen cells. about 3 are capped, with 3-4 more open. some bees with their heads inside the open cells.
- NO eggs or brood found, except on frame with queen cells: two cells with a single egg each, and one cell with a growing larvae (uncapped) just below the cluster
of queen cells.
- After extensive search, unable to find queen. Immediately suspect disaster. Utilize full profane lexicon.
Hive 3:
- Still small number of bees, but does not appear smaller than in the previous week. No additional dead bees found in our outside of hive.
- Cluster still in corner by entrance.
- 2 frames with drawn comb, but the previously seen burr comb is still the only major area of comb.
- Upon inspecting the frame with the large burr, find the burr is not attached to frame foundation and is hanging from top of frame. Flips and falls off of frame
while inspecting, landing on bottom board. Smoke bees. lift comb gently, check briefly. No eggs or brood seen, although is not very extensive search.
- Place burr vertically upright next to one frame. Place other frames back in hive, leaving one out to make room for burr.
- Second frame with comb drawn has open queen cell in the middle.
- Other frames comb is very new. Some green honey seen; no eggs or brood.
- Queen not found. Panic increased. Further profanity deployed, to little effect.

Call Doug about possible 2 queenless hives. He says eggs in hive 2 means definitely a queen there, but queen cell creation is odd.
Advises to give the bees a couple days and check on them again, then call him with results.
Post on several internet forums because I love these little critters and am trying to contain mixture of rage and panic.


If you spent the time to read over this, thank you so much. Any advise or theories base on your experience are very, very welcome.
 
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What I would do: Engage in further profanity.

If your supplier will not make good on a second replacement queen, buy a frame or two of capped brood, with a few uncapped eggs from them. Your new bees will raise a new queen from the brood. I'm assuming that African bees have not made it to Indiana yet? You would have to call the resulting bees mutts, as the queen would be bred locally, not artificially inseminated. Chances are that she would breed with your current supply of drones, those Russians. I don't see Mutts as a bad thing though.

It is important that you get a queen in there before a worker starts laying eggs. worker bees will only produce drones, no girls. I do not remember how long it takes before that happens. In an established healthy hive, there is often a worker or two that does lay. This is okay. Nature has its ways of reproducing!

If you have to purchase the frames, once the current emergency has passed, find a different breeder for your further bee escapades. Maybe purchase nucs. They are not quite as fragile. In the future, you could swap frames from your own hives. I think that your new colonies are too week just yet to spare any brood.

I miss my Russians. I don't miss the Russian bride ads on my Hunny's facebook feed though! I've got to set up a trap so I can get back into bees. Hoping for a swarm to move in! But ya know, it won't happen until the traps are set up!
 
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I'm fairly certain africanized bees haven't naturalized in the northern states yet. BUT does your supplier overwinter his bees in the south? Some do.
 
Nikolai Stepanovitch
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Mike Barkley wrote:I'm fairly certain Africanized bees haven't naturalized in the northern states yet. BUT does your supplier overwinter his bees in the south? Some do.



I know that some of his spring bees are supplied from further south, but not all. I forget the exact details of the setup. I had considered moving a frame with brood from hive 1, since it is doing so well, but yeah I didn't want to do that since they are still new themselves. I'm curious to see what he will say on Thursday when I call him.  I'm pretty sure hive 3 is queenless, but why that would be the case I really don't know.

The most confusing part to me is whats going on with hive 2. There are eggs, which suggests a queen is there, but why only 2? And why all the queen cells?
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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Ummm... Only two eggs?

Russians do seem to be overly paranoid that something will happen to their queen. They are constantly building queen cells and deconstructing them before hatching. I decided to bow to their proclivities and let them keep one or two going as they liked.
 
Nikolai Stepanovitch
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Joylynn Hardesty wrote:Ummm... Only two eggs?

Russians do seem to be overly paranoid that something will happen to their queen. They are constantly building queen cells and deconstructing them before hatching. I decided to bow to their proclivities and let them keep one or two going as they liked.



Okay thats at least a bit of a relief to hear.

But yeah, only two eggs and one larva that I could find. That was my first big concern. I know it takes about 3 weeks for workers in a queenless hive to begin laying, and I saw this queen only 1 week ago, so these aren;t worker-laid eggs. So the queen was definitely alive and lay no more than 3 days ago. But the fact there were only 2  is really weird to me and worrying.
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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Regarding two eggs... How good is your eyesight? I used to have to take a magnifying glass out there when my vision was near 20/20. Now that I have a (cough) smartphone, (cough) I would video my inspections so I could zoom in real close to verify. Initially, I missed a lot. I have Langstroth hives. They have black comb guides for the brood chamber. This makes it easier to see the egggs. Do you have anything like this available? Or are you going without a guide?
 
Nikolai Stepanovitch
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Joylynn Hardesty wrote:Regarding two eggs... How good is your eyesight? I used to have to take a magnifying glass out there when my vision was near 20/20. Now that I have a (cough) smartphone, (cough) I would video my inspections so I could zoom in real close to verify. Initially, I missed a lot. I have Langstroth hives. They have black comb guides for the brood chamber. This makes it easier to see the egggs. Do you have anything like this available? Or are you going without a guide?



I do have astigmatism; viewing things that are "backlit" is tricky, but generally my sight is clear. I use a langstroth with black-backed brood frames as well, but otherwise have relied just on my own 2 yes. I haven't had any trouble identifying eggs in other hives' cells, at least that I know of. Sometimes the sheen on the surface of a cell of uncapped honey can be deceptive, but generally I've found the eggs surprisingly easy to identify. I did, however, assume at first that I must have just missed others, so I searched the other frames again as carefully as I could. To be fair, on my first and second passes I thought there was only 1 egg, but on my 3rd or 4th pass I did see a second one right next to it. Little buggers had been sitting on it the first couple times. Soooo I don't know. Hive might actually be queenright?  I only have 2 weeks or experience, but personally I think it'd be really odd that that hive somehow went queenless in the span of a week, or more like 3 days, since there were those 2 eggs.
 
Nikolai Stepanovitch
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Confirmed yesterday that both hives are definitely queenless. Hive 2 has something like 5 capped queen cells now. Hive 3 still very weak, I highly doubt there is any saving that one. Breeder says he is looking to look into some queens he was raising and let me know when they'd be ready, and will probably just give me her whole starting hive. I'll feel better when I hear back from him on that, but I'm still really bothered by the question of just what the heck happened to them both.
 
Mike Barkley
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Could you move about half of the capped queen cells into the other weak colony? Does colony 3 have enough bees to support that? If it doesn't it might be worth trying to combine the weak colonies into the hive with the queen cells. Do you have access to an experienced beekeeper who can take a look? Don't panic. As long as you have 1 strong colony to work with there is hope. Plenty of time remaining before winter arrives.
 
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Tldr

So I caught enough that you're sometimes checking them twice a day and it's only in the 2wk?

After installing the package of bees ..one should leave them alone for a couple weeks. They need time to get established. You might have a virgin queen. She needs time to go out and she won't have done it if you keep breaking down the door.
 
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I'm late to this thread, so the situation is probably already resolved.

At one point you stated that you saw the queen, so didn't check for eggs. Seeing the queen is helpful, but it is more important to know that she is laying properly. Finding brood in all stages (BIAS) tells you have a healthy laying queen. Finding a queen just tells you that she is present - but she could be infertile, a virgin, a drone layer etc...

You mentioned also that you package provider was concerned about the last package he provided, because they had been boxed for so long? Sounds to me like they have been harmed by the overly long storage time - particularly if you could detect a bad smell when he first gave them to you. I lot of bees must have already died at that point, and started decaying. Its good that he replaced the first failed swarm, but sounds like his product is rather dubious.

As for what to do now; you are limited by not having other existing strong colonies. With another hive you can boost a weaker colony with a frame of capped brood, or with a queen cell if the queen is lost. However, I personally don't like throwing good resources after bad. If given the option of giving three frames of brood and bees to a failing colony, or making s split of a new colony with those three frames, I would go for the split.

Do you know about how to trap or catch swarms? It is still swarm season here. Ask around with local beekeeping groups to you (facebook) to see if they could set you up with a swarm. And post in your local community facebook group asking people to let you know.

 
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