This morning I replaced the syrup, and a few hours later I checked on them to find the hive swarming with activity. I looked closer, and realized my bees were fighting – colliding in midair, rolling around on the ground, pushing each other out of the hive! The bees they were fighting with are darker, with almost black abdomens – definitely not my bees. They are being attacked and robbed by an outside hive!
I ran inside to do some quick research – I had read someone’s blog article about their hive being robbed, so I had an idea of what to look for. Here’s what I did:
Removed the entrance feeder. Apparently having syrup out in the open can attract attackers.
Closed down the entrance to the hive to the width of a single bee. That makes it easier for the bees inside to defend themselves.
Covered the entire hive with a sheet soaked in water. This prevents outside bees from getting in, while supposedly allowing the home bees to find their way in and out. Mainly we want to keep the outside bees out, and allow the home bees to defend themselves inside the hive.
My guess is that the local feral bees are starving from the dearth of nectar, since there are no flowers left, and they’ve probably gone through their honey reserves just like my bees have. They’re out looking for anything, and they found the syrup that I’ve so prominently displayed.
If the colony survives this, I’ll certainly never use the entrance feeder again. I’ll need to find another way to feed them through the winter – maybe a candy board feeder inside the hive.
Poor bees. Saint Abigail and Saint Ambrose, please pray for my bees!
Yesterday I discovered that our first beehive is also suffering our first beehive crisis. I noticed that the bees had been unusually quiet that afternoon, so I went out to have a look at the hive. To my horror, I discovered that the ground in front of the hive was literally carpeted with thousands of bodies of dead bees. They were actually dropping out of the hive dead, right before my eyes. I had just inspected last Wednesday, how could such a drastic change happen so quickly? What could it be – starvation? Poisoning? Robbing?
It didn’t seem like robbing – I had read other accounts of beehive robbing (when another hive invades your hive and basically destroys it), and it didn’t seem like it could be that. Could it be pesticide poisoning? That didn’t seem likely – I haven’t seen anyone spraying nearby, and it’s not the right season for that.
It must be starvation. I’ve been feeding the bees with sugar syrup in an entrance feeder, but not consistently. During my last inspection I saw that the bees had almost no honey at all – not a good sign for the end of summer. I’ll be feeding more consistently from now on. Also, I’m looking into building a candy board, which I found great instructions for here: http://homesteadrules.com/diy-candy-board-for-bees/
I’ve heard of people losing whole hives before, and it’s devastating. I can only hope that I’ve intervened in the right way before it’s too late to save the hive.
Yesterday while inspecting our beehive I saw several bees (pupae) emerging from their cells. The mature bees would chew the cap off their cell, slowly emerge, shake themselves off a little bit, and then immediately get to work. I brought the frame over to Emma, who was standing by the garden, watching out of sting-range, and she also got to watch baby bees being born! What a neat experience!