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No Brood! The Queen Isn’t Laying!

With the warm weather in Richmond, Va. this past weekend (it was 69 when I checked on the hive called Westover), I went around to pull some of the last remaining extra supers that I had on hives. I also took a peak at any hives that didn’t feel heavy. My goal was to simply go down to the brood nest and pull one or two frames in the center of the hives to check on the brood nest. To be honest, I had just gotten through doing a lot of reading on American Foulbrood (AFB)… For those who have not delved into it much, this disease has one really nasty effect – you can actually lose an entire apiary if it takes hold of just one hive.

Effectively, the spores spread into the honey. So, when the hive finally weakens to the point where it is robbed, the other bees in your yard take the tainted honey back to their hives and the infection starts all over again. To be fair, the State Apiarist has told me multiple times this year that AFB has been almost non-existent in Virginia this year. But, all I had to do was read up on it during a quiet moment one weekend and it’s been bugging me ever since (is that hive just light or is it really suffering from AFB? Will I end up losing the whole apiary if I don’t check now?!) At any rate, I went into a few hives for the last time (I have said this so many times that I’m probably the only one that really believes it at this point) until January.

The very first hive that I went into had next to no brood. Here we go, I figured. I found the queen and she looked great. The honey stores were fine and the colony was strong in numbers. No signs of deformed wings or anything weird. Basically, except for the lack of brood, everything looked great. At this point, I was actually irritated (what the heck?! these guys were fine 3 or 4 weeks ago! tons of brood! now, she just decides to fail on me?!) On to the next apiary with a weak hive, still cogitating on what I should do about this hive. New apiary, new hive – again, no brood!!!! Now I am starting to freak out. Then, I remember (I am getting old…hell, I am old) that it’s late November! We’ve had a couple of nights below freezing…the day length is shortening quickly…EQUALS the queen stops laying!

Heh. The weather was so warm that I really had pushed it from my mind that we were well into the Bee’s Winter. But, to squash any possible nagging doubts in the days/weeks ahead, I broke down all of the hives in that apiary (5 in total). Every one the same – always no eggs (well, if they were there, I missed them) along with either no capped brood or just a handful. My queens are taking their well-deserved vacation! They won’t start up again until the days start getting longer again, probably in January.

The real key to this is that I now realize that I do not think that I have ever been into the brood nest of one of my hives in late November, so I have never seen this before. Of course, I could be crying the blues come Jan/Feb if all of these hives do have a serious problem, but I am pretty comfortable that everything is good to go. Regardless, this little surprise has me determined to go into a brood nest in January. I sort of went into one last January, when I was trying to save the Albo hive (which did survive, but I whacked the queen in April) and slid the frames to the middle of the hive, pulling one of the outside frames before I did so. I look forward to seeing what they are doing.

IMPORTANT: I do NOT recommend that anyone reading this blog actually break open the brood nest at any time after October 15 and before March 1, especially not in January or February. When I do it, it will be on a strong hive that I can stand to lose if something goes wrong. But, I am confident (or is that foolish) that I can do it if I get a day in the 50’s (we always do) in Jan.

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