Lost a hive…. :-(

Okay, that’s not entirely accurate. Losing a hive is accurate.

Hive 2 has always been smaller than Hive 1. When harvest time came around, I took care to leave most of the honey on Hive 2 knowing that they’d need it. After the harvest, an inspection highlighted a fairly significant mite problem. And then the wasps.

It’s all proved too much.

In a last ditch attempt to get them back up, I put half a gallon of sugar water on the hive. To compare the two, I did the same with Hive 1. Hive 1 moved a full half gallon of sugar water from the feeder to the hive in under 6 hours. Truly impressive. Hive 2?

They haven’t even touched it. It’s been three days.

I’ve watched the hive closely over the last week or so, and the pile of dead bees at the front door is getting bigger and bigger. The number of wasps coming in and out, consistent. I even saw (and then crushed) a wasp that was dragging a dead bee out of Hive 2. Today I saw wasps using an upper entrance on Hive 2 openly and without being met by guards. That entrance should be so heavily defended, but there’s no one at the door.

Sigh…

So Hive 2 isn’t technically dead yet, but they will indeed die. And given how strong Hive 1 is, it doesn’t even make sense to attempt to combine Hive 2 into Hive 1 at this point because the added bees would overwhelm the stores in Hive 1.

Here’s my theory:

  • Hive 2 was always smaller than Hive 1. The size made it harder for them to gather honey stores, so they never were quite as prepared as Hive 1.
  • Mites–Once the mites set in, they began to weaken Hive 2 to the point that the become susceptible to other problems, such as…
  • Wasps–Wasps are predators. They eat bees. They rob honey. Once they got a foot hold in the hive, they began to take over.

The combination of all three have doomed Hive 2 in the first year.

So what do I do now? Well, I want to save what I can in terms of physical assets from the hive: Honey and wax. I’ll be going out today to basically steal what I can from Hive 2, which will hasten Hive 2’s death. At the same time, however, it’ll preserve the honey and wax for a new hive to use next year. Plus, I’d much rather have those resources go to the new bees than wasps, wax moths, or other pests.

I’m also going to use the hive as an educational opportunity both for me and for a guy who wants to come over and learn about bees. We’ll actually get into the hives, which we should not do in the cold, but we’re going to do it because the hive is dead anyway. I’m going to try and find the queen as well because Aleisha, my mentor, suspects that the queen is gone. If all the remaining bees are drones, it’d explain why they aren’t bringing in any honey and why there aren’t any guards at the door. I know there are some worker bees still because I watched them bringing in some pollen on Thursday, but….

Okay, so now is the part where I start to waffle…. I really don’t want to do this. As in, I’d rather do just about anything else than kill this hive. Part of me wants to try to save it. A huge part of me wants to try to save it. I won’t lie that it makes me genuinely sad to think about this hive dying. Ugh… what to do?

What I know I must OR what I wish could be?

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3 Responses to Lost a hive…. :-(

  1. Emily Heath says:

    This must be awful to watch. If the queen has died, chances are you have laying workers in there by now and the hive structure is falling apart. Bringing pollen in is usually a good sign, but not if they’re only using it to feed drones.

    When you say that Hive 2 has an upper entrance, it sounds like they have two entrances, is this correct? This is quite unusual (at least where I am) and I wonder if you would be better off closing the upper entrance up.

    If during your inspection you find that you do still have a queen, who is laying workers and not drones, maybe you could do a final last ditch attempt to save them by putting them in a small nucleus hive with syrup and the tiniest entrance possible. You could even transfer over a frame of honey from Hive 1 if you think Hive 1 has enough stores.

  2. daveloveless says:

    Thanks, Emily.

    To clarify…. The upper entrance is actually a small crack I discovered the other day. I didn’t think it was a problem until I noticed the bees (and wasps) using it as an entrance. It was created by a build up of propolis that created a gap when I put the top brood box back on during my last inspection.

    I also got into the hive yesterday (my first totally protection-less inspection!) and saw the sad tale. The bees are clustered at the top, and they are almost entirely DRONES! 😦

    The hive is dead.

    I will be going out on the next moderately nice day to pull it down. As long as there was any hope of saving it, I was going to try, but there is nothing left. I will use this as an opportunity to really inspect and study the hive, though. I do want to try and find the queen just to see if she actually died or left. I can’t imagine she swarmed, so I’m assuming she is dead.

    Sad day….

    On the bright side, I now have 20 deep frames of drawn comb and 10 that have about 50% honey. That will make a good fast start for the new hives next year.

  3. Emily Heath says:

    Very sad 😦 They did well to make all that comb and honey during the year.

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