A few weeks ago, in the interest of eliminating weak colonies (beekeeper’s mantra–take your losses in the fall), I disbanded a colony whose queen had stopped laying eggs. There was no brood of any sort in the hive, despite the queen’s youth and prior good performance, and I assumed a poor mating. The hive was relatively small and, after the queen was removed, served to boost another more promising colony. Upon finding a much larger colony in a similar state, I drew up short. Sensibly, I did nothing, closed the hive up and went back home to research. So far, I have not found a great deal of information. I did find one really intriguing lead, however. The MAAREC (Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium) website’s page on Seasonal Cycles of Activities in Colonies states that “The egg laying of the queen bee tapers off and may stop completely during October or November, even if pollen is stored in the combs.” If a colony purposefully broke its brood cycle at this point in the year (assuming it had a relatively young worker population), could it also interrupt the varroa breeding cycle when mite numbers are not only potentially very high, but at their most threatening in terms of the colony’s winter survival? The Buckfast bee is reported to exhibit this behavior, but I have very little first-hand experience of such a pattern. The whole episode leaves me wondering…did I wisely eliminate a weak colony or destroy one with a potentially adaptive behavior?
A Quandry is where I find myself for exactly the same reason. In early October I replaced an active, laying queen, with a new, off the shelve, queen of unknown abilities. I replaced her because the hive was very defensive. The new queen was installed and accepted, but has not produced an egg since. 😦 I was aware of the tendency of some queens to stop laying for periods of time in the winter and for that matter, they may also stop during times of stress or food shortages. So at the risk of creating a drone laying colony, I have decided to wait this one out and see if she is a viable queen or not.
So, here we have two different responses to the same problem, with each decision maker questioning his/her own judgement. 🙂 Happy Days!
Some of the more experienced beekeepers I spoke with at the OMB journeyman workshop in Seaside were familiar with the hive’s cessation of brood rearing. While I am still not sure what’s happening in my hives, I feel reassured that there’s at least the possibility of having made a decent decision!
I suspect you chose the correct path. It is better to be safe even if it is at the expense on one queen.
My hive is still without brood. ?? Puzzling to say the least. I have a queen, a busy, apparently healthy hive. But no brood. I think I will continue waiting for a while longer. 😦