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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Garland County, AR
    Posts
    1,076

    Default Starving already?

    Ok, that may be a bit extreme, but I'm worried. I had a few frames I wanted cleaned up so I set them out for the girls to take care of. I know what open feeding looks like, the kind of frenzy that goes on. But somehow the bee girls seemed a bit more intense. Not sure really why I think that but maybe it's just because I'm worried. I went into Hive 1 yesterday all the way to the bottom. Hadn't been to the bottom in a month, maybe longer (note to self: TAKE NOTES!). The very bottom box was clean as a whistle! No pollen, no nectar, no honey, no brood in any of the frames. The last time I saw a frame that clean was when I let a colony starve (unbeknownst to me ). The rest of the boxes looked pretty normal, though I can't say for sure that I saw any eggs. There was capped brood. I didn't check every frame in every box. But I was very concerned to see the bottom one empty. The top box (#5) had a lot of gorgeous capped honey, but in a week's time they really hadn't finished that out much more. Would they eat bottom-up? In the remaining boxes were brood and nectar and pollen.

    Since I didn't think I had any eggs in that hive and since I have a nuc, I robbed some eggs from the nuc and stuck that frame into the hive - just in case something had happened to the queen, who was new. But their behavior had been a little funny - sort of that "la te da, what's a girl to do," that hanging-around-with-not-much-going-on behavior.

    I say all that to say, how the heck do you know if you have enough forage to sustain even a single colony of bees, much less 2 or 3 (pollen is NOT a problem; nectar is the issue)? There aren't any major farms around me, no major crops being produced. I'm in the country, but everyone just does home gardens. Since this is my 3rd year as a beek, #1 year doesn't count since I started with a nuc, and #2 doesn't either because we had a major drought. So here I am in year #3 with no real clue what is "normal" as far as nectar flow or sustainability or if I should even be beekeeping - the thought of which REALLY makes me SAD!!! How does one figure this out???
    Zone 7b ~ Central Arkansas
    8fr medium equipment

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Medford, Oregon
    Posts
    37

    Default Re: Starving already?

    Are you feeding them any honey/sugar water? We are feeding ours still so they don't have to completley rely on what they bring in, just until they stop using it. One hive already has, it's a strong hive so they hadn't finished their jar off so we figured they were fine and did not need it anymore. The question "should i even be a beekeeper", that silly, of course you should. This is our second year, we lost ALL of our hives last year! The thought never crossed my mind that we shouldn't be doing this. You just pick up your goodies and carry on. From what i understand of beekeeping it's a science, you never perfect it you just roll with the eb and flow of it doing your best to keep your bees healthy and happy. if it's a low nectar flow so far they may need a little help in the food department. we do a 1.5 to 1 ration sugar water in a quart jar. We add a little Honey b Healthy to it just for a little pick me up and they seem to really like it. When they stop drinking it in a week, pretty good sign that they don't need it. Hang i there seymore!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Bon Aqua, Tn USA
    Posts
    333

    Default Re: Starving already?

    I don't see how they could be starving and have gorgeous capped honey. And if I were really concerned when I saw that empty box on the bottom, I would have pulled it first thing and check all my boxes and put my brood at the bottom and depending on how much I found, would have determined whether to put the empty box on top of that and so on. Why did you not check every frame if you are wanting to know what to do? Living there you have plenty of Poplar and other trees which produce nectar and pollen and many wild flower. But we have to take the time to keep up with what is going on in the hive. Not wanting to hurt your feeling, but just from reading your post, it sound like you have been a bee haver instead of a bee keeper. If wrong, just overlook my wrong conclusion.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Utica, NY
    Posts
    8,398

    Default Re: Starving already?

    Capped honey is extra food so they are not starving. Empty box on bottom means they got room so what is the problem?
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Baytown, TX., USA.
    Posts
    646

    Default Re: Starving already?

    I would look again, maybe your queen is gone/dead/not laying. Put the empty on top and be sure you have a working queen (eggs and brood). You did right to give them some brood and hopefully some less than three day old eggs. Has it been rainy for some time? You could have trained your hives to rob with open feeding, always a hazard, that may be where your lower box honey went. Inspect the hive again looking for signs of a laying queen, reduce the entrance to be tight, etc. Keep us posted.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
    Posts
    3,284

    Default Re: Starving already?

    It could be possible that your colony swarmed within the last couple weeks, and that would explain the absence of new eggs and larvae. You might have a virgin queen in the hive or one that is ready to start laying soon. The bottom box might have been packed with capped brood a few weeks ago and they started their swarm preparation. As bees emerged the queen did not lay new eggs in that box and the bees cleaned the cells up. You might see them begin to work from the top down now, honey above and working down with brood.

    I know that's a lot of "maybe's", but it's difficult to tell unless you go through each box and describe what the rest of frames look like. If you have capped honey in the top box they are not going to be starving.
    To everything there is a season....

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Birmingham, Alabama, USA
    Posts
    101

    Default Re: Starving already?

    As far as your question about if you have enough available forage to sustain bees, you shouldn't worry about that at all. In fact, in many ways you should be happy that you live in the country but in an area where there is not a lot of agricultural pesticides/chemicals being applied. Your bees will forage over a large range and will take nectar and pollen from a huge number of sources.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Madison, WI, USA
    Posts
    176

    Default Re: Starving already?

    Consider reversing your boxes so that the empty box looks like room to expand to the colony. Rearranging the furniture will give them something to do, you will know soon enough if your queen is still laying.
    life is finite while knowledge is infinite. - Zhuang Zi

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Asheville, North Carolina, USA
    Posts
    552

    Default Re: Starving already?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom B View Post
    Consider reversing your boxes so that the empty box looks like room to expand to the colony. Rearranging the furniture will give them something to do, you will know soon enough if your queen is still laying.
    They know it's there whether it's above or below. They don't need us to "tell" them. They will use it when they need it. Reversing hive bodies is a management technique to thwart swarming. I agree with Gillmore.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Garland County, AR
    Posts
    1,076

    Default Re: Starving already?

    Kristen - thanks for the encouragement. I'm Not giving up on beekeeping yet - unless it appears the only way to keep bees is to feed them constantly. I understand feeding in a dearth - that's okay. But if there is not enough forage to sustain...that leaves me wondering. Time will tell on that one!

    Acebird - obviously, if there is capped honey they are not starving - at this moment. That's the "extreme" part. I'm just trying to figure out if an empty box is The Start. It's gotta Start somewhere (starvation) and I've seen it happen FAST with lots of bees. And the empty box got me wondering about the forage nearby.

    July - no, not rainy. And putting a few frames out on an afternoon would TRAIN the bees? Reeeally???

    Yucca - that's the real question - sustainability. I guess I won't know till I know. Don't like not knowing.

    Mike, swarming seems most logical with their la te da behavior, I was thinking, but there sure are lots of bees still in there. I had removed the queen on 4/2 to do a cut down split and left the hive with eggs and 3 swarm cells (also removed 3 more cells on a frame and started that nuc that I stole eggs from). My next check was about 5/2 and I saw the queen and she was laying. Is swarming likely with a just hatched queen that had just started laying? Could have been another swarm cell in there that I missed. Regardless, the frame of eggs I put in was my insurance in case that was what had happened, though it certainly did leave me scratching my head!
    Zone 7b ~ Central Arkansas
    8fr medium equipment

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