Oxford Bees

Absconding

Hive B is empty

Submitted by will on Tue, 29/08/2017 - 21:27

The colony in Hive B has failed or absconded. The hive is now completely empty.

The colony has always been small. In a year they built only 5 frames of comb (on National deep frames). I thought that maybe the effort of being at height had over-stressed them so I moved the colony from the out apiary to my back garden. I placed them under an apple tree in the hope that they would recover. There is good forage and they were at ground level.

I had seen some coming and going at the hive entrance in recent weeks. It all looked like normal activity. I saw no wasps going in or out. The entrance was partially concealed by apple tree leaves so I thought the colony was ok. I didn't open it.

The position under the apple tree may have encouraged robbing by wasps which I hadn't noticed. The colony may have lost its' Queen. It may even have been the move which killed her - although I was gentle.

Whatever the cause, I noticed unusual activity at the hive entrance yesterday. I checked the removable base board and saw a large amount of sugar on it - clear evidence that there was robbing of crystallised honey. Today I opened the hive and found it utterly empty: no bees; no Queen; no brood; no stores. I have no idea where the Queen and the other bees went.

Absconders

Submitted by will on Sat, 12/08/2017 - 10:02

The 'swarm' which I caught two days ago turned out to be from Hive H. They had absconded from the hive leaving nothing behind - no bees; no brood; no stores - only a few wasps.

I returned on Friday morning before dawn. The box with the bees inside was sealed, so I brought them to Hive H with the intention of combining it. I had two empty supers, newspaper and a queen excluder. I planned to put the newspaper over the brood box, then put the supers with the excluder between them. This would create a space beneath the excluder through which the bees could move. I would have more chance of finding the queen and removing her (I didn't think that I'd be able to save her).

I opened Hive H to find it entirely empty. It was clear that I had re-caught the absconding bees. I blocked the entrance completely and then put the bees back in. I added honey onto the crown board and put the lid back on. They were sealed in, which seemed the best plan in the short term.

Even before dawn there were wasps around the hive. I saw 4 at once at around 0530hrs. Clearly the site has a problem.

I moved the whole hive, with bees inside, to my home apiary. I was all finished by 0640hrs.

They're settling back into their hive in its' new position. I've seen evidence that they're cleaning up cells. There have been dead Varroa on the floor. I've even seen a few new wax platelets. I haven't seen any pollen yet. Maybe it's too soon for brood.

There are wasps here too but I didn't see any getting in.

EDIT 29/08/2017: After I moved the hive and colony to Headington I saw undertaker bees removing dead brood. I think that they did leave brood which I hadn't noticed. That brood would have died from neglect. When they were returned to the hive they would have removed the dead brood. I also saw dead Varroa on the removable base board. This suggests that the brood and Varroa died at the same time, in the cell.

August swarm

Submitted by will on Thu, 10/08/2017 - 21:59

I caught a swarm today. It was small - perhaps about the size of an orange once it had clustered. It was stuck to the side of the building where my out-apiary is. I suppose that it came from one of my hives.

I boxed the swarm this afternoon and then moved it to the roof this evening.

The swarm is surely too small to survive the winter so I'm considering adding it to hive H, which is has too few bees.

EDIT 12/08/2017 - this colony of bees had absconded from Hive H.