This is my first year beekeeping. I bought a two deep hive, already established about 2 months ago. The bees are cariolans. The hive is extremely healthy, no mites or disease (please don't hate me ---and going gang busters. I even added a western super 6 weeks ago and the bees started filling out the new frames with honey. The hive HAD gobs of honey, a beautiful brood pattern, and up to two weeks ago, I thought was going to gave enough honey/pollen stores for winter. But the area (southern Oregon) has been getting blanketed with forest fire smoke almost non stop for 2-3 weeks now. The air quality is so bad some days one can smell the smoke and get headaches from it. The visibility is very poor and looks like a bad day in L.A. The fires are 100-150 miles away from me. On Sunday, I checked the hive and most of the honey was gone! Empty comb. There was some nectar available, some pollen, too. Deeps were definately lighter than the last time I checked. During the days of heavy smoke, I noticed that there were not as many bees as on the sunny clear days. There was no signs of robbing, or swarm/superceedure cells, and the queen is still laying but not as much. Brood pattern is still OK but not a lot of brood. Lots and lots of bees, though. The bees seemed a bit agitated on Sunday and swarmy around me, even when I used the smoker (I think this extra smoke justed made them madder). There still seems to be enough wild flowers and clover around to gather from.
Question: is the forest fire smoke affecting the bees and making them consume their honey--as in getting ready to flee a real fire? Has anyone ever experienced this with their hives (lots of smoke in area)....and is there really anything a beekeeper can do about it, except wait it out and hope for the best. I really am saddened by the whole thing, since the hive was doing so well before the smoke came. Or, could this be something else, like the queen is failing and I need to replace her. She is last year's queen.
Thanks for your help and insight!