Troubling Bee-havior

Hive #1

We’re having a rough year with the bees.  First off, we lost all four hives over the winter.  Then, after ordering replacements, three of the queens did not take and John had to order three new queens.  Things were off to a slow start this spring.

Last week we went on vacation.    Before we left, John checked on his bees.  Hive #1 was doing fine.  Hive #2 was thriving and had a honey box  on it.  Hives #3 and #4 were on the weak side.  Upon returning, John checked the hives.  Hive #1 was doing well.  Hive #2 continued to thrive.  Hive #4 was doing fine. But Hive #3 was completely empty.  Completely empty.  Cleaned out and ready for new tenants empty.  Might as well put a sign out front, “Hive for rent.”

Hive #2

Where did they go?

Two theories.  One theory is that they swarmed.  If they swarmed at the beginning of our vacation, they are long gone.  The problem with this theory is that the hive was new and not particularly strong.  We were not expecting much, if any, honey from them.  They didn’t even have a honey box on the hive.  So why would they swarm?  They were still in growth mode.  And why is the hive completely cleaned out?  Bees gorge on the honey when they leave; however, a swarm is to add a new colony.  Half the old one should be left in the hive to raise a new queen.

Theory #2 is that the hive was robbed.  If they were weak and other bees wanted their honey, the stronger bees would attack.  They would battle to the death and the conquering bees would take the honey as booty.  Evidence of a bee-battle would be dead bee carcasses.  However, if this happened at the beginning of vacation, ants and other scavenging critters could have cleaned up the mess by now.

We went down to the hives for a closer inspection, taking five year old Junior Beekeeper with us.  He wanted to put on his full bee suit in the ninety-plus degree heat, but we told him it wasn’t necessary–there wouldn’t be any bees.  (Ok, the other three hives have bees, but we weren’t planning to open them.)

We first inspected the exterior of the hive.  The “front porch” entrance was clean, as John had noticed earlier.  We checked on the ground for dead bees.  Surely ants couldn’t have carried off every single bee carcass, could they?  We found nothing.  John opened the hive and pulled frames out one by one.  Frames were empty of honey.  Some wax moths were wandering in there, which John squished with his knife, but otherwise, the hive was ready for new occupants.

Hive #3--nobody home

Alas, we’re down a hive.  And only one of the remaining hives has a honey box  on it.  So, all you honey eaters who fell in love with our honey the last two years and are waiting for this year’s harvest…umm…better lick that last jar clean.

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