No matter how much one reads, there's still a lot to learn. This is my first year as a beek and after much research I decided to go with a Warre hive. I know you're just supposed to let the bees go and do their own thing, but I decided to open the hive over a few month period every 2-4 weeks just to learn more. I learned a lot by reading several books before I even acquired my bees, but it's another thing to learn firsthand by experiencing something. I always enjoyed opening the hive up every time I visited to check on their progress. Whenever I did inspect them, I would normally only look at 2 bars.
When I pulled out a bar, I tried to keep it over the hive while inspecting it just for that reason. I never marked my queen, I just tried to keep an eye on her progress and how much she was laying. I just checked my records and it looks like there was a decrease in the amount of new brood in July. The top box had beautiful, straight comb that was filling up with nectar, honey, and different stages of brood. However, when the bees started building comb in the second or bottom box, the comb started to drift over and connect with the comb next to it and I noticed she wasn't laying as much in those.
Unfortunately, I happened to see 2 SHB about 2 months ago (who knew how many others there were). I placed a beetle jail jr trap in the hive hoping to catch them before the population grew. At that point I had no idea how long they had been amongst the colony for. I checked on the hive a few weeks later and only saw a few beetles in the trap which I thought was a good sign. While the hive was open, I looked at a couple top bars and did not see any new brood which concerned me. I opened the hive again about a month later and it appeared that half the colony swarmed as there were a lot fewer bees than normal. I don't know what else could have happened. I just looked inside again today and the comb appears to be completely empty of honey and brood. There still aren't many bees around and I'm afraid that the SHB decimated the hive. I'm not sure if I could have saved them if I were more active and attentive about reducing the beetle population, but I saw at least 3 on 1 side of 1 bar that I inspected. It didn't occur to me that I should have started feeding them either (stupid, stupid, stupid...). They seemed rather healthy throughout the summer, but once fall came around, things started to decline.
I know I still have a lot to learn, but does anyone have any suggestions as to what happened? They don't have any stores for the winter. Should I try to feed them now and leave them alone for the winter and if they're all dead come spring just clean the hive and get it ready for a new package of bees? I'd hate to start disassembling it now since there are some still in the hive. They don't seem to being doing much though, just wandering around over empty comb.
Many thanks for your thoughts and help!