saving a hopeless colony.

Welcome to NZ Beekeepers+
Would you like to join the rest of our members? Feel free to sign up today.
Sign up
85
54
Russia
Experience
International
Today I would like to share my experience of saving hopeless colonies.
A friend of mine in New Zealand runs an apiary in his backyard. It so happened that by May, the tick had weakened the bees very much and the worst thing was that the queen was lost. A quarter of the bees remained on one side of the frame. Somewhere 100-150 pieces.
The situation was hopeless... Everyone advised him to give up this idea, and start anew in the spring. But we are not looking for easy ways, and what else can beekeepers talk about forever - only about bees. After discussing the weather situation in New Zealand in winter, we came to the conclusion that the chances of success are 50/50.
A queen was bought, there was a sealed brood in the nest, which was destroyed - there was a tick in it and if the bees were born, they would still be unviable. The colony was transplanted to a clean honeycomb and a good honey-pergov frame was added. The queen was successfully planted, and a strip was placed against the tick to knock down the tick that was still on the bees. The flight path was shortened so that only one bee could pass. The extra frames were removed from the hive, and only two were left - an empty frame and a honey frame. From the sides they were clamped with feeders that were wrapped in foil. A thick towel was still covered over the frames. The mesh bottom was covered with cardboard. What it was done for - to create the right microclimate in the nest. This was done somewhere in the middle of may.
The first month was critical - until a young bee was born, and then it was already possible to relax and control the availability of food in the nest.
At the time of writing this post on the calendar on 08/31/2022, bees feel great, and already occupy about 3 frames. I think this is a very good result. I consider the experiment a success, my friend is happy. Hooray!!!
* I want to draw attention to the fact that this colony was one. There were no other bees within a radius of 100 meters. The option of looting is possible if there would be other bees nearby.IMG-20220901-WA0002.jpg
 
  • Like
Reactions: Alastair

Mummzie

Staff member
1,246
1,131
Tasman
Experience
Hobbyist
Remarkably resilient creatures aren't they.
I wonder where in the country this hive is located. The survival I am sure will be due to overnight temperatures not being very low.
tell us, how do you save weak hives?
do you want the answer of a hobby beekeeper, or that of a commercial?
I guess the former may attempt a rescue, the latter not . The actions will also differ if other colonies/resources are available.
 
8,649
5,113
maungaturoto
Experience
Commercial
A queen was bought,
So you buy a mated queen, which comes out of a hive and that hive is no longer viable. Made one hive better by making one worse (tho thats now someone else problem). Are you really saving a hive?
They could have simply bought the hive the queen came from, job done with less risk and better outcome.
Understanding the whole situation is important, especially in commercial context.

One of the issues with repairing hives (without buying in) is that you often weaken other hives, which is something you want to avoid doing unless you have a hive that's way to strong. Its also carries risk which can be fatal for a hive so early in the season.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Mummzie
8,649
5,113
maungaturoto
Experience
Commercial
Auckland, Albany area

yes, this is the answer for amateurs. It is easier for a commercial beekeeper to create a new colony in the spring.
Yes its easy to make a replacement, but what do you do with the old? Often you end up trying to save it and you still have the gear to deal with. What's different is the approach, you're simply not going to spend a whole lot of time on it and you need to recover the gear.
For me combining it with a good strong hive (eg make it a two queen hive) is a quick simple way to recover a hive with minimal input. Should the weak hive queen fail, then the gear is already on and easy to split off a nuc or turned into a super. Should it recover then it can be split off easily.
 
  • Like
Reactions: NickWallingford
85
54
Russia
Experience
International
So you buy a mated queen, which comes out of a hive and that hive is no longer viable. Made one hive better by making one worse (tho thats now someone else problem). Are you really saving a hive?
The key word is bought. Not given, not borrowed, but bought. There are guys who have chosen a direction for themselves - a breeder of bee queens. I think they grow them to sell. Or collecting queens? Do you want to leave them out of work?)) I can assume that you don't keep bees for the sake of saving bees on earth. And you "ruthlessly exploit " them in order to make a profit. If we continue this logic. Why do you think this is a problem for the breeder of queens? A hive without a queen? This is just one of the stages of working with bees. If we take this particular case, another positive aspect is that a person has not lost 5 months of his beekeeping experience. He has done work on his mistakes and I hope he will not repeat them again. Now he knows what to pay attention to. Unfortunately, you will not get practical experience with the help of books.
 
8,649
5,113
maungaturoto
Experience
Commercial
The key word is bought. Not given, not borrowed, but bought. There are guys who have chosen a direction for themselves - a breeder of bee queens. I think they grow them to sell. Or collecting queens? Do you want to leave them out of work?)) I can assume that you don't keep bees for the sake of saving bees on earth. And you "ruthlessly exploit " them in order to make a profit. If we continue this logic. Why do you think this is a problem for the breeder of queens? A hive without a queen? This is just one of the stages of working with bees. If we take this particular case, another positive aspect is that a person has not lost 5 months of his beekeeping experience. He has done work on his mistakes and I hope he will not repeat them again. Now he knows what to pay attention to. Unfortunately, you will not get practical experience with the help of books.
You missed the point completely.

Think of it this way, imagen if you can't buy in anything but you have spare hives to take from. So you can take a queen from another hive, but then what do you with that now queenless hive.
Keep in mind this is all happening out of season, you can't make a replacement queen.

The lesson here is that you have to be careful that you don't ruin a good hive by using it to fix a bad hive, which may not even recover. A bit of risk management.
 

yesbut

Staff member
11,892
6,999
Nelson
Experience
Hobbyist
I think Koss is pointing out that in this case the mated Q came from a sacrificial Q-banking type hive so normal part of business.
 
3,513
6,576
Hawkes Bay
Experience
Commercial
I tend towards trying to save hives. Sometimes it's obviously hopeless but I have had hives with a Queen and literally a handful of bees and have swapped them with a hive that was in danger of swarming and ended up with two excellent hives. The trouble is it can be very hard to tell whether a hive is weak because the Queen is poor.Most of the time it works for me.
 
  • Agree
Reactions: Alastair
32
35
UK
Experience
International
Rather than take a queen, a small colony can be kick-started with a frame of brood with a queencell on it. (Or just a queencell). The general rule in the UK is to put a small colony is a small box so there is less space to heat and it allows the colony to grow quicker. Polystyrene nucs are very popular and work well.

A local beekeeper called me recently wanting to 'save' a colony of laying workers; first of all by buying a queen - won't work - and then he came back to me wanting to buy a nucleus colony. He was aware that he was wasting his time as all he had was a few frames of old tired bees which would probably be riddled with varroa. I reluctantly let him have a nuc which he put in the place of the laying worker colony for a week first to get the (few) flyers and then united the two and 'rescued' his old bees. It must have been touch and go as the new queen now has nibbled wings - so she must have just made it. He has just enough time to treat for varroa before winter is upon us. He would have been better allowing me to take any potential winter loss and collected a nuc from me in spring. But such is our attachment to these insects we don't always act rationally!
 


Top