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Starving bees - really urgent

 
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Heartstone
Guard Bee


Joined: 02 Sep 2012
Posts: 65
Location: CO Sligo, Ireland

PostPosted: Tue Jun 02, 2015 10:33 pm    Post subject: Starving bees - really urgent Reply with quote

I have 3 hives of black bees at the moment. I never really get to see the queens as they always hide them well.

The first has plenty of stores and is very strong, I even got a few pounds of honey last month from this hive.

The second is also very strong with stores. I did a split with this hive 3 weeks ago tomorrow. I took the old queen with two frames of brood and two frames of honey into a nuc leaving the main hive queenless. The nuc is now doing very well and getting stronger. The main hive has a number of virgin queens piping in the hive (some tooting and others quacking) I can recognise around 4 to 5 different ones. I tried to look into the hive 3 days ago but was forced to retreat as they did not take too kindly to my presence. They still had plenty of stores.

The problem is that I noticed a lot of dead bees on the front board of my third hive this evening. So I decided to inspect it as it did not look right. There were tons of dead bees, many dying and a lot looking rather lethargic (but that could be due to the time of day). The hive has no stores at all, not even a drop of honey. I provided them with 2 bags of fondant on the top of the bars and also a sugar 2 to 1 mix in a feeder. I listened to the hive at about 9pm and heard a lot of activity in the hive (more than normal and I think it was feeding) I do not know if the queen has survived. Eggs are present as well as sealed brood. I did not see any larvae but I did not look too carefully as it was late in the evening and I did not want the hive open too long.

The weather here in North West Ireland has been bad this May and the last 2 days really terrible.

Can anyone suggest why they might not have any stores at this time of year?

So please advise. Do I leave it alone and just keep feeding? See if I can get one of the virgin queens into the hive as a precaution? Is it also advisable to reinforce the hive with brood and bees from the first strong hive ( I am worried about transferring the queen by accident).
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zaunreiter
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Joined: 26 Nov 2007
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Location: Germany, NorthWest

PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2015 12:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Queenless hives do not defend their hive much, so it most certainly has been robbed. Queenless hives have to have the entrance restricted. Closed to a narrow hole.

Hungry hives are more grumpy towards the beekeeper, so that might be the reason for their aggressive behaviour.

This hive has been marked by the other bees as being robbed. Feeding can start another round of robbing.
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Heartstone
Guard Bee


Joined: 02 Sep 2012
Posts: 65
Location: CO Sligo, Ireland

PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2015 8:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is not the queenless hive that has a problem.

It is another hive. The queenless hive is very strong.
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Barbara
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Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1564
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2015 10:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would feed them 1:1 syrup (fondant means they need to fetch water and 2:1 syrup is used for laying down winter stores. They need instant food, so in my opinion 1:1 is better to pick them up with minimum extra work for them) and close the entrance right down to a small hole big enough for just 2 bees to pass.
Without seeing the hive, it is impossible to say why it is in this condition. Perhaps they were weak coming out of winter for some reason and as you say, the weather has been pretty poor the past month. If there are eggs and larvae, then unless you have a laying worker, you must have a queen. Give them a week of feeding and keep a close eye on the hive for robbing.... make sure there is no other point of entry for robbers to get in. Feeding predominantly at night will help. Some warmer weather will help too and that should happen in the next few days.

Once they have had a chance to get back on their feet, check again for brood and make a decision then about requeening.

I have a tiny colony of dark bees that miraculously survived winter and are hanging on with a bit of feeding....they are so small, a jam jar of 1:1 syrup lasts them a week!!... They are raising brood but it takes time to get to the critical point where the population takes off and the cold weather is not helping that. At the moment, they are just holding their own until they reach that critical mass. I'm quite happy to give them time to sort themselves out. They have made it this far, despite all the odds, so I don't feel the need to intervene other than a little syrup.

I have a strong gut instinct not to chop and change bees and brood between hives unless there is a very serious need for it.... ie the colony is queenless.
If they have a queen and food and some comb and a dry, draught free place to live that they can easily defend, then the rest is up to them. That is just my philosophy.

Good luck to you and your bees.
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Heartstone
Guard Bee


Joined: 02 Sep 2012
Posts: 65
Location: CO Sligo, Ireland

PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2015 11:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your reply Barbara. I have always found your advice useful in the past.

I think you may be right. This hive was a nuc last year. Over half the bees have survived possibly less than a 1/4 and not more than a 1/3 have perished. the bees are still filling one brood box and one medium super (a rose hive box). It is just a shock to see that many dead bees.

Last night the bees were very slow and lethargic, I noticed that they did start to feed on the fondant immediately. The hive is very active this morning, in fact I have not seen it this active for a while now.

No sign of robbing that I can see as it appears that there is not an excess of bees at the entrance. I have closed the entrance down but I will reduce it further as you said.

All the syrup was taken down, about a litre when I looked at around 9:00 this morning. I topped it up with another litre. The bees are filling the feeder. The hive is noisy but I think that is just a lot of activity rather than Queenless (I hope anyway). I assume the bees will feed a queen even when short of stores but I am not sure if that is the case. I am hoping that she did not starve.

The weather has gone from heavy rain and less that 7c yesterday to dry and 20c today. I noticed some bees returning with pollen to the problem hive.

I try not to feed my bees and leave them with plenty of honey. But in an emergency I will feed. I will switch to 1:1 on your advice.

The hive with a problem is next to the hive with virgin queens who should be starting to fly about now I think. It is the hive with the virgin queens that had become aggressive.

As there are eggs the Queen must have been around less than 3 days ago. I also assume that if she is no longer around and they regain their energy the hive will create an emergency Queen. Do you think they will?
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Barbara
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Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1564
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2015 12:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You are right that they will nourish the queen with whatever tiny amount of food there is left as without her they are doomed. If you have brood, she will still be alive. It may be that her fertility has been affected if things have been really bad, but they should supercede her in due course, if that is the case.

The bees that appear dead may actually just be in torpor, so if you can gather them up and put them in a box and bring them into the house and put it on a heat pad (not too hot obviously), you may recover some, especially if you dip a cotton wool pad in some syrup for them. Lack of food will make them exhausted and then they get cold and go into torpor. They can survive for a couple of days or more like this and be revived, so don't give up on them.

The pheromone levels in the hive with the virgin queens will be making them tetchy. My hives which are very pleasant the rest of the year, become a bit ratty at swarming time.... it's no different to women suffering (ok.... the men in their lives suffering!!!) similar emotional/temperamental swings due to hormones. If the rest of the time they are polite and well mannered, don't worry about it.
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Heartstone
Guard Bee


Joined: 02 Sep 2012
Posts: 65
Location: CO Sligo, Ireland

PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2015 2:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can't thank you enough for your help and advice. When I started the thread I was hoping that either you and/or biobees replied. It has reassured me greatly. This is only my third year of bee keeping and the only year that all my hives got though the winter.

The hive is quietening down now. They are bringing in a lot of pollen now as the weather is really good again.

I noticed that some of the bees that were dead started to move so I started to rescue them one by one by placing them in a dish with some fondant and syrup (I know it is sad, but every life to me is important). It looks like once they recover they start to help out the others that are still recovering. I also noticed that the bees on the front board are removing pollen (and I think nectar as well) from bees returning to the hive.

There was capped brood and eggs in there last night but I did not look hard enough to see if there was any larvae.

It is good to know that they keep feeding the queen as that gives me hope that she is still in there somewhere.

The hive with the virgin queens was very quiet until recently (after the virgins began to emerge).

I hope that the tiny colony you have makes it. It looks like summer may finally be on its way so that should help a lot.

I am in the process of making my first top bar hives as I intend to switch from nationals to top bars.
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Barbara
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Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1564
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2015 4:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My tiny weak colony are bringing in pollen by the ton this afternoon. They survived the winter against all the odds, they have had a bout of dysentery but still they survive and today definitely looks like they are on the up now. I have faith in them.

Yes I understand exactly what you are saying about every life being precious. In winter, if I find a bee on the footpath next to the hives that has got too cold to make it back inside, I either cradle it in my hot little hands and breath warm breath onto it, or bring it inside for a spell in a box on the radiator with a spot of diluted honey in there to revive before letting it go. It used to be easier when I only had 2 hives to take it to the entrance of each hive and wait for it to walk in to the correct one, but now I have more, the chances of it being mugged by guards at the wrong hive is too great so they have to be fit enough to make it on the wing before I can release them now.

I'm really pleased I was able to reassure you.
Gaining knowledge and experience is slow progress and often hard when it comes from failure, as all the best learned lessons do, so it's wonderful to be able to negate some of that failure by using my experience to help other people, especially those I would never otherwise come into contact with. That's why this forum is such a fantastic facility.
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greengage
Guard Bee


Joined: 26 Jan 2015
Posts: 62
Location: Ireland

PostPosted: Thu Jun 04, 2015 6:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thats was very interesting reading above,
i have two questions, barbara you mentioned feeding some diluted honey to a bee at the clases i attended they were insistant that this was a no no as they said it could transmit nosema, i would be interested in your views,
Also at chap a the classes mentioned he has kept bees for 30 years and gives them Thymol (Think thats how you spell it) in a winter feed and it helps clean their system would you have any comment on this. Reason Im asking you, (Its not that i dont believe the chap) is you seem to have sound advice and there are more people on here that would have wider view. Thanks.
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Adam Rose
Silver Bee


Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 582
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Thu Jun 04, 2015 7:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

greengage wrote:
barbara you mentioned feeding some diluted honey to a bee at the clases i attended they were insistant that this was a no no as they said it could transmit nosema


I would never feed shop-bought honey or any honey from outside my own apiary, for those reasons and also because of the treatments commercial beekeepers use. But for emergency resuscitation purposes a small amount of honey from your own apiary ( ideally, from the same hive ) is OK, and nutritionally the best thing. We're talking pretty small quantities until they're able to feed normally. I had a similar issue to yours and just dribbled it down the sides of the hive and also left a teaspoon with honey in the bottom of the hive.

If you choose to do serious, large quantity, medium term feeding, then it should be sugar and water in whatever ratio is appropriate to the season, or perhaps fondant or bags of damp sugar in the winter. In this case, you will be measuring quantities in litres or kilograms.
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Barbara
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Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1564
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Thu Jun 04, 2015 9:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Adam is right. I'm talking about feeding ONE bee a tiny spot of honey from my own apiary to help revive it. It's easy to dip a finger in the jar and then in some water and let the bee lick it off than making a minute amount of syrup. If I need to feed a colony(a very very rare occasion!) then they get sugar syrup appropriate to their needs/time of year. NEVER feed bees honey from anywhere other than hives you know are disease free and certainly not from foreign countries, no matter how ethically produced it sounds.

I used to use thymol as a varroa treatment but I haven't used it for years as I haven't needed to treat for varroa. I haven't used it in any other capacity but I'm not in favour of routinely treating bees with anything.
I've had a couple of hives show a bout of dysentery in late winter/early spring (mustard coloured runny poo on the front of the hive and landing board) but they get over it themselves and I no longer consider it a problem. Nosema is another matter and thankfully I haven't had to deal with that yet. (touches wood!)

I hope that helps clarify the situation.
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greengage
Guard Bee


Joined: 26 Jan 2015
Posts: 62
Location: Ireland

PostPosted: Thu Jun 04, 2015 4:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

cheers tks for that, great site loads of info keep up the good work.
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Heartstone
Guard Bee


Joined: 02 Sep 2012
Posts: 65
Location: CO Sligo, Ireland

PostPosted: Sun Jun 14, 2015 9:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I inspected the problem hive last Sunday. Eggs and larvae were present so it looks like the Queen survived the starvation of the others. The hive had built up a lot of stores in 6 days from the feed a I gave them and are now as strong as ever.

Regarding treatment, this winter was the first that I got all the bees through it. My first year I lost the two hives I had, in the second only one of three survived. Both years I treated for varroa. The bees in the second year reacted to the treatment (apiguard) very aggressively and it disrupted them for a good week or more.

Last year I did not treat them at all for varroa after I did a varroa count. They did have a small amount of varroa but they all survived the winter, not sure if there is any relationship but it does make me think.

I am reluctant to give varroa treatment now but I am trying to find if there is a safe natural way to treat it. I use no wax foundation on any new frames but they are still using some of the frames they came in from the nucs I bought.
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Barbara
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Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1564
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Sun Jun 14, 2015 1:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great to hear that they are picking up.

My small colony are now building comb. I did an inspection a week ago and would have liked to see a better brood pattern, but there is brood and increasing numbers but most importantly they are building comb, which tells me that they are beyond the "hanging on by their toenails" stage and that is a joy to see.

I really can't advise you with natural treatment..... in reality, there is none! My attempt last year was a shook swarm and I certainly wouldn't do that again but then my bees don't readily build comb, so it was a disaster for them to lose all of theirs like that. I didn't realise how different my bees are in that respect.
Some people use oxalic acid vapour, some use sugar dusting and there are many other options. None are actually "natural" You have to come to your own decisions about what you are comfortable with. My experience is pushing me further towards the live or let die mentality in this respect.

I personally wouldn't worry about the foundation that is still in your hive. My nationals have very old brood comb... some more than 10 years old... that was started with foundation. I don't advocate the use of foundation except perhaps as starter strips on top bars, but I don't worry too much about it either.

Just realised that you are in Sligo..... what a beautiful part of the world that is! Spent a long weekend on horseback there 20 years or so ago and what fabulous countryside and beaches you have. Great memories!
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Heartstone
Guard Bee


Joined: 02 Sep 2012
Posts: 65
Location: CO Sligo, Ireland

PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2015 10:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We moved to Sligo from Lincolnshire 9 years ago. It can be a difficult climate to work with but the countryside is lovely.

I am coming to the same conclusion that 'live or let die' seems to be the best option.

I have just transferred a nuc to my first Tanzanian top bar hive. I also did another split into another top bar. So I will see if that produces a Queen in a few weeks.

My national hive with the virgin queens still has no eggs or brood 33 days after the split. So looks like the queens did not make it, there were several piping and there are several empty queen cells. I added a deep frame of eggs, larvae and sealed brood to see what happens (with no bees on the frame). Maybe the queen(s) is/are just late laying, if not the brood should give them a second chance.
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Barbara
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Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2015 11:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My experience is that the parent hives that have swarmed multiple times take a long time to come back into lay. 4 weeks is about the norm but they have gone longer. I call it their summer holiday phase..... there are plenty of stores in the hive and no comb building required and there is lots of time before they need to produce the brood for winter bees and because they are not working themselves to death they live a lot longer, so they just seem to take time out and the long brood break is beneficial in reducing varroa mite levels, so it all works in their favour. I used to worry that they were queenless but I don't any more. I've only ever had one swarm itself to queenlessness. My bet is that the brood you gave them may stimulate your queen to start laying but I will be surprised if they try to make an emergency queen cell from it, because I think the hive probably has a queen..... she's just resting on her laurels!
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Heartstone
Guard Bee


Joined: 02 Sep 2012
Posts: 65
Location: CO Sligo, Ireland

PostPosted: Tue Jun 23, 2015 2:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some more advice needed.

I inspected the hives again today. The hive that had the virgin queens still has no eggs or brood of its own, however last week I gave them brood at all stages including eggs and young larvae and they have made no attempt to create an emergency queen although they have continued to rear the brood I introduced. The hive is calm. It is now 42 days since I did the original split and a week since I introduced some new brood.

Also I split another hive last week by creating a two frame nuc in a new top bar hive. I looked into the new nuc 5 days later and they had drawn out new comb of worker cells and they had eggs. The funny thing is that inspecting them today both the new nuc and the original hive have eggs and worker brood, so it looks like both halves of the split have a queen. The original hive has an incredible amount of new eggs and brood.

The hive I originally posted about with the problem has only 1 egg that I can find and both sealed and unsealed brood, some of it looking only about 4-6 days old. It also has a couple of queen caps and one sealed queen cell. I can't see if anything is in the queen caps due to the angle they are on the comb.

It is all looking very confused.

1) A hive that had virgin queens piping where nothing seems to be happening.

2) Another one that had the queen removed but still has a queen. (The old queen confirmed in the new nuc)

3) A third that had a queen last week with only one egg (looks healthy) and a sealed queen cell this week (it also has a 8 frames of sealed brood with a small amount of middle to old looking unsealed larvae - drone and worker).

Any thoughts about the above three situations.
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Heartstone
Guard Bee


Joined: 02 Sep 2012
Posts: 65
Location: CO Sligo, Ireland

PostPosted: Sun Jul 12, 2015 8:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Today I looked in the hive that had virgin queens but had not produced any brood after 6 weeks. Now at 8 weeks there are eggs, larvae drone and worker capped brood. It took the queen at least 6 weeks to start laying from the time of the original split. Transferred the lot to a to bar hive this afternoon.

Looks like you were right Barbara, it can take a while for a new queen to start laying.
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Barbara
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 12, 2015 8:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So pleased to hear they have righted themselves. The fact that they didn't try to raise an emergency queen from the brood you gave them was a good indication that they Q+ but they do like to test your nerve and just when you think all hope is lost, they come back on line.

I have seen this extended broodless period many times now in my hives and I know I advise other people not to worry but I must confess that I still have a little wobble of faith as the weeks go by, so I really do understand the relief you are feeling to find brood today.
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