The Hive that Provided us With Honey, Now Lost. Was it My Fault?

Thursday Sept 29th. I've been wondering about Hive 2 for a while, the hive that we harvested the honey from (see Week Sept 18th). There have been far fewer bees than when we harvested, and far fewer than the other two hives, and the hive was much lighter. I called Allen about it and he gave a few suggestions about what to do. One thing he suggested was to put the honey super that I had taken off of Hive 6 on Sept 25th (see Blog post] on this hive so they could have more food. This was in response to my telling him that I didn't know what to do with the honey super I took off Hive 6 - it had some capped cells full of honey, but the areas surrounding the capped areas were full of uncapped honey, which means the bees were not finished curing it (i.e., the proportion of water in the honey would still be too high for storage for the bees or extraction by us). So one solution would be to just give it to this hive.

So when I went to feed the bees today, I put the honey filled super onto Hive 2 after filling the feeder. However, things did not look right - immediately, every bee and wasp (yellow jackets) in the vicinity descended down onto it and started feeding frantically. I shooed some of them away and then closed it up, but it seemed to me I was closing a lot of non-resident bees and wasps in with them. What was going to happen now?

Monday Oct 3rd. When I went to feed the bees today, the honey super I had added to Hive 2 was COMPLETELY EMPTY! Something wrong. This is not going according to what Allen suggested. The idea was, the bees would start working on curing the uncaped honey and manage the capped honey to get them through the winter. There is definitely a problem.

Monday Oct 10th. A whole week since I gave them sugar syrup! I was going to give them some on Thursday last week, but from Wed to Sunday I have been going non stop! Then on Sunday it rained all day. I had sugar syrup all made and waiting for days.

When I went to feed the bees (on a beautiful sunny day!), Hives 3, 5 and 6 were fine as usual, and had eaten through all of their pollen patties, so I gave them more pollen patties as well as sugar syrup. But Hive 2 looked even worse. There were a few dead bees on the landing board, but it had rained, so that wasn't too unusual. But when I opened it up there were even fewer bees and quite a few wasps feeding on the pretty much intact pollen patty! There were also a few sickly looking bees walking around. Then I pried out one of the frames. Completely empty. So were all the other frames. Argh! The hive had been robbed! There was no food left for that colony. Other bees and wasps were coming in and feeding on anything they could and the last few remaining residents were unable to stop them.

Why did this happen? Did it happen because I removed the honey supers? Since Adam had said no need to bother with queen excluders, I had not used one, and as a result, the queen had begun laying in there. Perhaps the colony had moved their home more into the upper part of the hive, into the supers. So when I removed the supers, I took all their honey?

Or, when I removed the supers, I allowed a lot of bees from other hives in inadvertently. If that is what happened, I am not sure how I could have prevented it because the bees were so intent on swarming towards any food source. Perhaps if I had not waited until Sept? Maybe the bees would have been less hungry and feisty in August before they get so anxious about winter.

Or, when I put the new super on from Hive 6, the huge swarm to that super before I slapped the lid on was when the whole hive got robbed.

All I can say is that, before we took off the honey supers to extract honey, that hive had been fine, and now it is doomed. So it must be my fault in some way. One of my books suggests checking that the hive still has 40 lbs of honey when you remove excess honey. I didn't do this. For one thing, I didn't dare start pulling out frames because robbing seemed to be such a problem. I was trying to close it up as quickly as I could. But perhaps I could have tried lifting the hive. That can give you some idea. In previous blogs (e.g., Sept 25th) I did notice at that point the that hive seemed rather light. But by that time we had removed the honey.

It seems the lesson to be learned is that, one shouldn't assume if there is honey in the honey supers, that honey is excess honey for the hive and you can take it. I didn't understand that. And be very careful about robbing!

 Hive 2, the one that is doomed, is the one at the back on the left.

Hive 2, the one that is doomed, is the one at the back on the left.

After I put everything back, I put out the containers we used to extract honey for the bees to clean out.

 Bees cleaning off the extractor equipment for us

Bees cleaning off the extractor equipment for us

 Cleaning it out for us.

Cleaning it out for us.