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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Pearland, TX, USA
    Posts
    2

    Default Newbie Kills Her Bees-- Help

    Any advice you have would be appreciated.
    I'm new to beekeeping in the Houston, TX area. I ordered and built my first hive from R. Weaver about 8 mo ago, the standard 10-frame box, and built it exactly per instructions. I hived my first bees about 2 weeks ago, bought from R. Weaver apiaries. They looked great on arrival, very active, only a few dead ones in the box, queen looked active in her cage. I put them in the hive exactly as instructed in "Beekeeping for Dummies". The hive is in a dappled-sun area of a big quiet field, up on stilts which are sitting in motor oil to keep out fire-ants. The weather has been great, 70's and sunny during the day and down to 50 or so at night. Everything is in bloom now, particularly honeysuckle and blackberries. I let the bees sit undisturbed for a week. I was feeding them sugar syrup with an entrance feeder which came with my hive kit, and I never let it run out. I always saw a lot of activity around the sugar feeder, though it seemed to my inexperienced eyes that there wasn't as much bee activity as one would expect. I'd see bees flying into the hive maybe 10 times in a minute. I opened the hive for the first time after exactly 7 days. I used the smoker that came with my beginner kit. I used newspaper and the fuel stuff that came with the smoker and some pine needles. It seemed to me there weren't enough bees in the hive-- maybe 400 total. I couldn't find the queen, but I did see drones and workers and thought maybe I just wasn't experienced enough to find her. There was NOTHING on the foundation except for 6 or 7 hexagons filled in with a bright orange crystal-like dry compound. The comb was being drawn out in a very small area, about the diameter of a drinking glass. I saw no eggs. The queen cage was empty. I removed it and put back the 10th frame, and closed up the hive. Today I opened it up again, 3 days later, and everything looked dead. There were about 400 bees all balled up together on one of the frames. No motion, no noise. I could pull them apart and look them over, their legs were drawn up and I couldn't see anything else wrong with them. The foundation was still the same, just a small area with drawn-out comb and nothing stored except 6 or 7 hexagons of orange crystals. I figured the bees were all dead. There were a lot of dead-looking bees on the floor of the hive. Nothing smelled bad. I took the frame over to feed the dead bees to my chickens. After walking about 200 yards in the bright sunshine and 72 degree weather, the 400 "dead" bees started to stir. After about 5 minutes they were more active and some were flying around. They still didn't look very energetic, but they weren't dead. I stuck the frame back in the hive, but clearly something is very wrong.
    What did I do wrong? Did they starve? Were they asphyxiated? Is it some disease? Did they swarm away?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Fuquay Varina, NC
    Posts
    261

    Default

    sounds like they left with the queen and the returning foragers stayed with the hive to me. the orange crytals you are seeing is probably pollen. i have had this happen to a swarm i hived which is similar to a package in some respects.

    did you check the trees to see if they are clustered somewhere?

    ways to encourage the queen to stay are to introduce a frame of open brood and to keep them closed in a couple days. i have only installed one package so i will let others comment that have more experience in this area.
    Hughes Honey Apiary
    http://www.hugheshoney.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    dartmouth ma
    Posts
    10

    Default requeen

    i a new myself but I believe you should get a new queen asap. Check with some of the locals as well

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Harrodsburg Kentucky
    Posts
    41

    Default

    I would have to say they absconded and your only option is to buy another package and just forget about the few hundred bees you have left. It sounds like you don't have any other hives so maybe a nuc would be a better option and then next year when you order packages again you will have a source for a frame a brood or atleast some drawn out comb.

    Don't give up this has happened to most of us.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Southern Ohio
    Posts
    376

    Default

    I always put a queen "excluder" above my bottom board when installing a package so it functions as an "includer". Leave it on for a week and then remove. About the only use I have found for it though some people like them.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Greenville, TX, USA
    Posts
    4,207

    Default

    Likely absconded. They may have been helped by robbing. Entrance feeders are bad for promoting robbing. Try again. See if Weavers will let you have another package, maybe even a discount. Try feeding inside the hive instead of at the entrance this time.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Pearland, TX, USA
    Posts
    2

    Default R Weaver himself calls!

    I e-mailed my query to the R Weaver company where I bought my bees, and I'll be danged if Mr. R. Weaver HIMSELF didn't call me right back! There's customer service for you! He said pretty much what you all said above, that they probably absconded right away if there weren't ANY food stores in there when I checked after a week, but he thought it was unusual that they'd do that. He said the "dead" bees that came to life were probably chilled and/or starving. He suggested spraying the few hundred bees left with thick, warm sugar syrup once a day for the next few days to see what happens. I think I'll just have to try it again next year if I can't find my swarm.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Greenville, TX, USA
    Posts
    4,207

    Default

    Without a queen, spraying those bees won't help a bit. Call your county agent and sign up for swarm calls.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Columbus, Ohio
    Posts
    546

    Default

    You could also get on swarm lists. They have one here on this site. I also started a "blogger" site (see my signature) that produces alot of calls. Its actually fun to go capture swarms...
    Find A Beekeeper - Swarm List
    "There's nothing wrong with me, it's the rest of the world that has a problem"

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Orlando, FL
    Posts
    1,313

    Default

    Swarms are a blast. Go get 'em. Put out swarm traps with pheromone lure in them. I put out 4 traps last summer and got swarms in 3 of them. 75% is pretty darn good for a first year attempt.

    Just be careful if you are in AHB territory. If they are possibly Africanized swarms just get a new queen right away. Don't wait for a few weeks and assess their performance then think you'll re-queen them - they'll get defensive and you'll have a devil of a time re-queening them then. They'll accept a new queen in the swarm state pretty readily (or in the first few days after establishment.)
    Troy

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Greenville, TX, USA
    Posts
    4,207

    Default

    I had a call from Clearlake tonight. Sign up and get on all the swarm lists.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Austin TX USA
    Posts
    301

    Default

    I think the entrance feeders are more likely to start robbing because it's easier to get to for robber bees, even when it's placed properly in the entrance. I still use one, but I always put a wood shim next to it to reduce the entrance.

    My queen and some troops absconded the first day I had them due to heavy robbing from sugar syrup. It was not a good first day of beekeeping.

    You might try alternate feeding when you get your next set of bees.
    ~May your hive thrive
    Aisha

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Barry, TX USA
    Posts
    862

    Default

    Boardman feeders do induce robbing. You could feed inside the hive or feed far away from the hive. If there's a good honeyflow going you probably don't have to feed at all. I've found that the bees prefer nectar to sugar water.

    Also, reducing your entrance on a new hive works wonders.

    I'd recommend starting two hives instead of one. That way you could move a frame of brood from the other hive to correct this situation.

    Also, find an experienced beekeeper(10+ years) to mentor you. He/she could give you that frame of brood you need right now.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    St. Louis, Missouri
    Posts
    25

    Default Boardman Feeders

    I know that this really doesnt pertain to the topic, but don't give up on boardman feeders. I find Boardman feeders to be a good way to feed bees, BUT they have to be used properly. Yes, I have had robbing, but that was my fault, not the feeders. I prefer hivetop feeders, but use boardman feeders pretty often, because I can check and fill them after dark and very quickly. Boardman feeders dont work well in cool weather either. Has to be warm enough for the bees to fly. The key is to reduce the entrance down to the width of a single bee on the end of the bottom board opposite the feeder. The robber bees would have to "run a gauntlet" to get to the feed and back out. The biggest thing though is to not spill the syrup around the hive. They also work great to give the bees water in the summer.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Cleveland, Texas
    Posts
    1,385

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Pearlandvb View Post
    I e-mailed my query to the R Weaver company where I bought my bees, and I'll be danged if Mr. R. Weaver HIMSELF didn't call me right back! There's customer service for you! He said pretty much what you all said above, that they probably absconded right away if there weren't ANY food stores in there when I checked after a week, but he thought it was unusual that they'd do that. He said the "dead" bees that came to life were probably chilled and/or starving. He suggested spraying the few hundred bees left with thick, warm sugar syrup once a day for the next few days to see what happens. I think I'll just have to try it again next year if I can't find my swarm.
    I sent you a PM about a swarm near you.
    "The UNKNOWN, huh? That would be SNORBERT ZANGOX over in Waycross."

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