Peter, the fella that set me up with two nucs, offered to be the source of another nuc for Connie. Though I planned to use my own hives for Connie (as a “pay it forward” kind of thing), I had a feeling he would do this as he is coming back from Wisconsin to pick up his hive. Normally, his hive is a beast (in terms of bee population not temperament) and he wanted to slim his hive down for the trip back to his new place. He apparently has an awesome new location, on the fields of a monastery…leave it to Peter to find such a place.
Connie, Karen and I had a trip to Jim’s Brushy Mountain store planned for Sunday. I figured my husband and I would make the nuc Saturday and after our visit to Jim’s on Sunday, Connie and I could look at her nuc. Next week, she could stop by and we would check for queen cells.
Well, as they say “the best laid plans”… We got to Peter’s hive and right away you could see there aren’t many bees flying in and out. My hives are doing very well in comparison (another reason to have more that one hive, so you can understand what is a strong hive versus a weak hive).
When we left Peter’s hive in August this was the order of hive bodies from top to bottom: medium, deep, medium, deep and deep. This was the order of STORES, today: empty, empty, full, empty, a few frames with honey/brood.
When we harvested the 2 mediums last year, we placed the deep left there by Peter, thinking they MAY do something with the deep hive body over the fall. Well…they did nothing.
Even worse, the medium underneath was full. The deep underneath the medium was EMPTY…NOTHING, NADDA, ZIP, ZILCH.
The bottom deep..get ready for this. Three frames worked. THREE!!!!!! One was brood!!!!!!!! Do you understand how horrible that is? It’s horrible. Horrible. HORRIBLE. I still can’t believe I saw that. I was on the brink of tears. I KNOW how strong this hive was. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.
The one saving grace? I saw the queen. I know there’s a queen and that’s 1/2 the battle. All the hive needs is a couple frames of brood. But I didn’t have brood with me because I was expecting to take it away! Peter’s hive is being hosted by the brother of a friend of his, this friend is also a beekeeper and has a couple of hives nearby. If she would give him a couple frames of capped brood, it would make a great difference. Even eggs would help if the nurse bees came along because they have a full medium of stores, so they have the resources to feed more larvae.
The signs of a problem: when we approached the hive, wasps came out of the top. I was worried that a nest was in there (don’t know enough about wasps to know if this is possible) but it was a group of wasps, no nests. A well-attended bee hive will have lots of bees to patrol the hive, even the empty spaces. Another sign: not many bees coming and going. When it’s a beautiful, sunny day and the trees and bushes are blooming, you expect to see a lot of bees leaving and arriving. When we pulled up, we saw only a small number of bees.
A rule of beekeeping: only give them enough real estate that they can patrol. If you have a big hive with very few bees, it creates an opportunity for other critters to get in there and destroy the comb or rob the honey. It even creates an opportunity for another hive to rob out the weaker hive.
I updated Peter and he wasn’t too worried, he’s just going to let happen whatever happens. We’ll look at it in about a month and see if it needs more brood. I’ve got my fingers crossed.