And now for some bad news.
After a second try at our top bar bee hive, another failure. Yes, I am disappointed and saddened by this outcome.
Here is what I think happened…
The hive truly seemed to be doing very well during the peak garden season…July. Lots of activity. Our top bar has 3 openings. At the time, only one opening was unobstructed. I decided to “help the bees out” by allowing access to another opening. I think that this decision was my biggest mistake. My second big mistake was that I had stopped feeding them.
Understand, I am new at all of this business. With the bees, I don’t want to be always in their business (i.e. constantly entering their hive). Perhaps not the wisest plan.
So…what happened? Well, the hive got quiet. Bees were still going in and out, but the numbers seemed much less than usual. Eventually, no activity was going on.
Opening up the hive revealed:
- no honey
- no brood
- no bees
Did they swarm? One of the combs had what looked to be a queen cell/swarm cell…I need to read more on the difference.
Were they robbed? This thought is what I am leaning towards. Why? All the bodies. When I removed all of the top bars, this view is what I saw:
Bodies were also present outside the hive (hard to see because I had mulched with straw around the hive).
My suspicion is that when I opened the other access hole into the hive, my new, weaker hive was unable to defend both openings fully. My neighbor has two established hives just down the hill from us. I bet his bees found my hive and helped themselves.
Thinking I was helping my hive, I think I caused its demise simply by removing a cork.
See that funny looking “growth” on the comb…top of the photo, sorta orange in color? Queen cell? Swarm cell? I don’t know. Did the swarm? Were they robbed?
Well, I’ll be trying again in the spring. At least I have some beautiful comb on the top bars that will give my next bees a head start. I’ll have a different management plan for next time, too:
- Keep only one access hole open
- Check the hive at least once a week
- Provide supplemental feed for the whole season
- Consider relocating hive to a different spot in the garden