For about a year I kept a single bee hive going strong in my yard. Then my landlord's hired man whitewashed my hive box, and a few days later, the colony left. I couldn't afford to replace the bees, so I smoked and cleaned the box, then put the empty hive back where it was.
Today, nearly five months later, I noticed that a colony -- or at least a good number -- of bees have moved in to my hive box! I was delighted.
My question: What can I do to keep these bees happy? Should I be feeding them something?
I should add that I live in an area of Africa where there aren't beekeeping supplies available. I do have a reasonably nice modern hive that I bought from someone, but I can't buy all sorts of fancy add-ons or specialized equipment.
I assume these are not Italians but African bees then. If they absconded it was probably due to lack of nectar at that particular time. I would recommend watching them closely enough to acertain whether there is a nectar flow or not. If you can feed them sugar syrup during a dearth (no nectar) then you can probably keep them from absconding. Then again maybe they didn't like the smell of fresh whitewash.
Thanks for your reply.
What are some ways to feed a colony with sugar water? My hive box is the plainest sort imaginable. I don't have any sort of attachments. Can I just put a tray of sugar water at the entrance to the hive?
It's difficult to give advice when I don't really know how the hive is set up. But anything that gives them access, keeps them from drowning and doesn't give too much syrup away to hives that aren't yours is a plan.
I've never feed african bees, so I'm not sure how they will react. I've seen people here (with Italian bees) just dump sugar in the hive and let the bees eat it. Sometimes they eat it, or store it, but sometimes they haul it out as trash too.
Any kind of jar with holes in the lid setting on top some way seems to work. Most of the hives here have an "inner cover" or, if I remember right, what the British call a "quilt board". Ours have a hole in the center and putting a jar on the hole works well. You can just do that or put a box around it and a lid on that.
Any kind of open tray can work if there are floats to keep the bees from drowing.
I have fed my bees in a vaiety of ways. The upside down, air-tight jar with little holes in the lid works well. I used a quart jar and refilled it every other day. A little syrup dripped out when I first set it over the hole in the inner cover, but not too much and the bees clean up a small amount of drips, anyways.
A zip-loc bag works well. I pit it on top of the inner boeard that has the hole in it, and cut a little slit at the top, You would think that it would all leak out, but it doesn't. I then cover the bag and the top hole so the bees can get at it without strange bees even knowing it is there.
Putting a shallow pan of syrup at the entrance. I put a lot of long grass or twigs in the pan for the bees to land on. Otherwise, they drowned. This has USUALLY worked well, but it once set off robbing.
About a month ago, I used a method which may help you feed.
I had honey water mix from my harvest cleanup process that I was going to feed in an open feeder. I had a 1 gallon glass jar full. I cut a very heavy gauge screen that was slightly larger than the jar top. (I used the heavy screen used for gutter guard.) I then placed the screen on top of jar and followed by a soup bowl on top(inverted). When the whole business is then flipped right side up, there was a small amount of liquid in bottom of soup bowl. Bees could feed easily and no drowning.
This is similar to a chichen waterer.
[This message has been edited by JohnBeeMan (edited September 14, 2004).]
I assume that the behavior of African bees is similar to 'regular' honey bees. I would feed them away from your house maybe about 50 - 70 meters, 100 would be better. The frenzy of them feeding of the syrup would be far from the house and there will not be any (much) chance of stinging. I would also use a jar with holes punched into the top, invert it over a large pan or dish on top of some sticks. This way the bees will be able to feed and you can see how much they have taken down.
If you have drawn comb and frames in your hive, then you can pour 1/1 white sugar and water syrup directly in the comb. If possible, I would avoid useing the less processed brown sugar. You can also make a bee candy with sugar and a little water and place it in the hive, if you can keep the candy covered with bee access, place the candy on top of the colony. I would avoid bothering the bees much, particulary at first.