Friday May 13th. I had checked on the bees (without opening them up) on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, but had been super busy with preparing beds for crops, so hadn't had a chance to open them up and see what was going on in there, and which one was likely to have swarmed. Then on Friday, I opened up the garage after lunch, heading back to the field to work, when there was one purposeful-looking scout bee. Hmmm... After my experience on Monday, I decided it might be a good idea to go check the aviary again. I had been feeling an urgency to check them for a day or so but hadn't got round to it. Glad I did go and look in on them. You will not believe what I found this time!
Hive 3 was toppled over on its side, frames strewn everywhere! Disaster! What happened? To my amazement, bees were still attached to the frames as if nothing had happened.
I ran back to the garage to get my bee gear, came back and began putting it all back together. But after putting the frames back in, there seemed to be frames missing. I walked a little way and found another one. It looked in terrible condition.
I put this one back in too, assuming the bees would take care of repairing all the damage. But there was still a gap where one more frame should be. I looked a little further out in the field surrounding the aviary, but could not find it anywhere! How strange!
At first I thought maybe the wind had blown it over. But then I saw that the grass was flattened down around the frame that had been a little distance away. Plus, on closer inspection, it looked like it had been licked. If you look at that picture, I thought all that wetness was rain, but it hadn't rained recently. So it was more likely that something had licked the cells full of honey and brood, and left a mess of honey behind. Later, I looked at that frame again and noticed claw marks (see lower right)!
I put everything back and placed a heavy weight on top! Should have done that to begin with! I put a weight on the other two hives - the large ones - though those two had been left unscathed.
Not a moment too soon! About an hour later, the skies opened up and it poured with rain! Had I not gone out to check the hives when I did, they would have been drenched, and that would have probably been it for them!
I tried to think when this could have happened and what it was that did this. I decided they had probably not been lying there exposed for more than 15 hours, probably happened overnight or yesterday evening, and my best guess is raccoons. Adam had warned that bears are becoming more of a problem in CT for beekeepers these days, but I had a hard time believing there were bears around here.... I hope... I checked my bee books again. One said that if frames are missing it is likely bears. O-oh! But the other one said that raccoons are able to remove the lids of hives if there is no weight on it, especially ones that are lower to the ground. Then once they've removed the lid, they are capable of pulling out a frame. Then they drag it along the ground a little way from the hive and start feeding on the brood and honey. The guard bees give up on them once they are a distance away, and fly or crawl back to the hive and leave the raccoon alone. Judging by the state of the frame that was a little way away from the hive, and the fact that it was a little way away, it does sound like raccoons. But, can raccoons remove an entire frame on their own? This is where I need someone with a drone (not the bee kind, the human kind!). They could fly it around our meadows and see if they spot it anywhere.
Saturday May 14th. The next day I had a moment to open up Hive 3 again (the one that got attacked) and Hive 2 (the one I thought might have generated the swarm). Hive 3 did not look great. However, I SPOTTED A QUEEN! If you remember, this was the one made up of frames with queen cells that I had removed from Hives 1 and 2. All the queen cells were open, so apparently, the surviving queens must have fought it out. But I was also worried that if this hive did have a queen by the time the raccoons attacked, the queen could have been lost. But I spotted her straight away! So that's good. However, I did not see any brood cells or any evidence of the queen laying eggs. Was this because it hasn't been long since this new queen has been at it? Or is it because they are busy recovering from the raccoon attack? Or something else? I wish I knew!!!
I then opened up Hive 2. I looked at every single frame. And, once again, I SPOTTED A QUEEN THIS TIME! If you remember, that crazy week that I was desperately looking through the two large hives for the queen, I could not find her. So I was quite excited when I spotted her. However, she was in the top box. Wasn't she supposed to be in the bottom one laying eggs? Why did I do that box reversal thing? Wasn't the idea that I would be moving the queen down to the bottom box and she would feel like she had more room to lay eggs? I wish I knew what was going on. Also, this hive had no brood cells either. At least, I couldn't spot any. All I saw was lots of honey and stored pollen. And they had pretty much ignored the blank frames I had put in two weeks ago. Plus, there were still a lot of bees, so many that I changed my opinion about this hive being the one that generated the swarm. I gave all 3 hives sugar syrup, and when I opened Hive 1 up (just to give sugar syrup, I didn't have time to check the frames) it looked like it had fewer bees, so maybe that was the one that swarmed.
I so much wish I could get an experience beekeeper to come out and explain what might be going on and if everything is fine. After all that meddling I did a few weeks ago, I am feeling much less confident about the state of affairs.