Robbed (updated)

Not too long ago, I saw this on the way inside from letting the chickens out in the morning:

Horrifying. That, my friends, is a dead hive. Kaput.

And I think I know just what had happened – some other hive robbed them. Honeybees will fight to the death when invaded, so every single one of them died.

Updated: my bee advisor just told me he thinks this looks not like a robbed hive, but a starved one. I had assumed they were fine because of a) all the activity, and b) the medium super full of honey I put on them this summer. During my recent anemia I was too tired even to mix up bee syrup, so I left off feeding just assuming they were fine… and that may have caused their deaths. I guess they must have been eating up the stored honey instead of foraging while they could, and then came the Fall dearth and they starved. I should have done my October checkup, I really should have… but because I failed in my duty from illness and not laziness, I should probably not beat myself up too badly about it.

When I cracked the hive open:

Yup, every cell that used to have honey was now bone dry.

The hive had been doing well up to that point and had a great queen. All the capped brood continued to mature, but without care from the nursery bees, they died before they could emerge.

That’s four or five pounds of dead bees right there – expensive any way you want to think of it (thousands of dead bees, a year of time, $100, no honey next year).

I’ve reduced the entrances of the other two hives, which can greatly help them defend themselves if it happens again… too late for this one I’m afraid.

So beekeepers: What do I do now? I have many frames with empty crazy top-bar comb; I would rather they built much straighter, so should I just melt it down for candles? What do I do about the frames full of dead bees?

Updated: my bee advisor recommends just keeping the crazy comb in the medium super, since I’m going to have to crush it to get the honey out anyway. I’ll just save the bees the trouble of building it all from scratch again. As for the dead frames, he suggests trying a split from my strong colony (Lady Grey) in the spring, early enough before the flow to get honey production out of both hives. So when I transfer some filled frames from Lady Grey to start a new colony, I’ll replace those with these dead frames. The bees in Lady Grey should do a good job of housekeeping on those.

With three hives I could have had so much surplus honey next year: enough for myself, mead-making, and selling too – not so much with only two. And what a disappointment, to lose the hive that looked like it was thriving the most… especially since it may have been preventable. I’m going to miss that queen, she was fabulous.

5 Responses to “Robbed (updated)”

  1. Jack Says:

    My sincere condolences.

  2. Heidi Says:

    What a terrible blow!
    Do you have any idea of what/who did this? Did the defenders leave any invaders dead or are they all the same kind of bee and can’t tell who’swho.?
    So so sorry…

  3. Mark Says:

    Ugh. That has to be frustrating. So I assume that all the bees with the heads in their cells were the survivors of the attack that were trying to find some honey to eat? Or were they robber bees that were killed off by the defenders while trying to steal the honey? A mystery.

    I would think if you put a frame with the dead bees in an existing hive that they would clean it out for sure but if you really don’t like the comb anyway….

  4. Diana Guillermo Says:

    I’m about to head off to update the post, but… my beekeeper advisor tells me this probably wasn’t a robbed hive, but a starved one. I had just assumed they were fine because of all the activity I saw every day, and the medium super full of honey I put on them a few months ago… but I guess instead of foraging, the dorks were eating up all that stored honey? Now I feel like a terrible beekeeper because if I’d kept feeding them they might still be alive!

  5. Diane Says:

    Oh, no! Stupid robbers. 👿

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