Prior to leaving for vacation I checked in on the girls (aka the honeybees) and they were doing well. All looked good, nice comb, busy bees no signs of stress, pest or disease. All hell broke loose with personal stuff and I didn’t get back to check them again for about five weeks. This Friday the weather was nice and I had some ‘free’ time so mid-day I headed over to take a peek and what I found was down right sad. Most of the girls are gone and all the honey stores and brood that were in the combs are as well. I suited up and opened up and well not a whole lot was in there sans one small section of girls.Two of the sections of screen that cover the ventilation holes were chewed through which I thought was odd. Upon the realization that something bad had happened to their food my first reaction was to feed them as quickly as possible. I put the feeder back in the hive and put a 2:1 syrup in and after a little cleaning up closed the hive back up. The ‘buzz’ coming out of there was not one of friendly disposition as prior experiences have been and I really didn’t want to add additional stress to them.
Today I added another bottle of food, the first is already a quarter of the way down, so at least I know they are eating. There was always this nice ‘buzz’ from them and it didn’t change when I was checking the hive. The buzz now though, it’s different and it’s not a happy sound at all. In all sadness I have to admit that I don’t know that they will make it through the winter with zero honey stores. I have to come to terms with the fact that I most likely will not have bees next year and that really sucks.
Now, as to what happened? Great question and I don’t know that I’ll ever have the answer. Others suggestions have ranged from robbing to swarming. In the end I don’t guess that it matters very much the outcome is the same, I’m down to very few bees, they are grumpy and it’s late in the season. I’ll know for sure if this is the ‘end’ in a day or so. I’m going to have to fully suit up and fire up the smoker to get into the section that does have active bees grumpy. I need to see if there is a queen or brood. If there isn’t any of those things, it’s really the end. If there is a queen and she’s laying then there is a glimmer of hope between her and food, all be it a small one.
I told Randy that I had said all along that I wanted nature to be able to do it’s thing without me interfering too much. I was willing to feed to get them started and to make sure that they had all that they needed to prepare for the winter. I read and heard so many different ideas and tried to incorporate the ones that were what I thought as close to ‘nature’ as possible. Honeybees aren’t native to the United States and perhaps in the very end that is something that I need to take into account with my experience.
Maybe I’m best served sticking to lower maintenance mason bees…