I felt so much better about this hive’s chances for success than last year’s. The bees did not have to draw out so much foundation, nearly every frame had already been drawn out. The weather seemed more conducive to bee foraging. The bees seemed happy and healthy whenever we checked on them. I felt as if I had learned so much from my first beehive that my second was sure to be more fortuitous.
Then the horrible stretch from late August to early October happened where we kept intending to add the entrance reducer in-between struggling to manager the foster kiddo’s behaviors. I should have made a quick daily inspection of the hive, much like I check on the chickens every day, but I did not. When I took the kiddo out to say goodbye to the bees (and the chickens) as she was preparing to leave that night, I saw what looked like clear robbing behavior: clumps of bees that were tackling each other and dead and dying bees strewn over the front entrance of the hive.
Much like the months preceding it, that night was too much of a mess to attempt to save the hive. The following morning, I stuffed the entrance reducer in and threw a wet sheet over the hive to discourage robbers. I lamented the pile of dead bees on the ground. I also read more about how to prevent robbing and learned that an entire colony can be wiped out by marauding bees in a day!
Then we finally were able to open up the hive this weekend. Crap is not the word I thought in my head. The upper deep box still had some honey in it that looked hopeful. All hope dissipated, however, by the time we inspected the bottom box: it was essentially empty, robbed of its stores.
Once again, I have a hive facing a winter with starvation-level rations, which ma
kes me feel like quite the novice beekeeper. I need to feed my colony starting now if I have any hope that they will survive, but feeding the bees will attract the robbers back again. The dilemma is an unpleasant one, but I have reduced the entrance to the smallest possible opening and have an order of peppermint essential oils en route after a fellow beekeeper recommended that I use the aromatic oil to confuse the robber bees. I also bought a 50-pound bag of sugar at Costco and a dripping-wet sheet thrown over the hive.
The long and the short of it is that I want my bees to make it, and they won’t survive without getting fed. Let’s hope the strategies I implement will result in a less bleak outcome for this hive than for my last one.