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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Highland, MD, USA
    Posts
    13

    Question Robbed or Something Else?? Need Advice Please.

    I need advice. 5 weeks ago before we went on vacation I checked my first year TBH. The girls were doing great, new comb, new brood and capped and uncapped honey. They were doing just what I'd hope they would and I saw no signs of pest or oddities going on. We left for vacation for a week, when we got back my mom went into the hospital and needless to say for the last several weeks I've not been out to check the hive. Friday I went out, finally home during the day with free time I was eager to go see my girls, what I found left me incredibly sad and somewhat confused.

    Most of the girls are gone, there is maybe a package worth near the far end. The comb that was gloriously full of bees, brood and honey is all dry and empty. Some comb had holes all the way through it and I spotted small hive beetles as well. However no slime, no funky anything on any of the comb where there are still bees. I noticed that two of the ventilation holes at the top that had screen stapled over them had been chewed through. I made sugar syrup for the remaining bees and put the feeder in the hive with them and I closed off the ventilation holes that had been chewed through.

    Now my girls have been very docile since I first got them, I could inspect without need for smoking with ease. Yes they'd come out to check me out but the buzz from the hive always remained the same. This time though when I started to move toward the bars that still contained bees and comb they were not pleased at all. The pitch of the buzz changed dramatically and they started coming out at me and seemed very irritated. I stopped and decided to give them a chance to settle and feed hoping that they would calm some with a food source close by.

    I checked this morning and added a second 2:1 syrup bottle to the feeder inside. I put the feet of the hive in moats with oil and water to stop the ant march up the legs and into the hive. I've always made sure that no weeds or anything were touching the hive so that pest couldn't get in.

    I'm sad and angry and I don't know if I did something wrong or if this is just part of the 'experience'. In all honesty I'm not very hopeful that feeding them at this point will do any good and fear that they won't make it through the winter.

    Any advice, suggestions or thoughts will be appreciated.

    Angie

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    berkshire county MA
    Posts
    1,472

    Default Re: Robbed or Something Else?? Need Advice Please.

    You didn't mention whether or not there was any queen cells, or sign of the queen.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    owensboro,ky
    Posts
    2,240

    Default Re: Robbed or Something Else?? Need Advice Please.

    My best guess is they swarmed and the new queen did not return from her mating flight. You'll have to suit up and dig into the hive and see if they have any brood.
    It's very close but not TOO late to get a local queen and feed like mad.
    "Wine is a constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy" Ben Franklin

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Highland, MD, USA
    Posts
    13

    Default Re: Robbed or Something Else?? Need Advice Please.

    Before this happened there was a very actively laying queen and no sign of cells. As of Friday like I said, when I attempted to move the top bars where there are still bees and activity I was met with less than happy girls. They came out from in between the bars and headed straight for my face even though I was suited. So I opted to put syrup in there and close it up. Today when I went out to add the second bottle of syrup, 1/4 of the first was gone and again I was met with less than happy girls. Since it was very wind, cloudy and chilly today I decided that it wasn't the best time to go in and inspect anything my thought process being that they are already stressed they didn't need additional stress.

    So I don't know for sure what's still in there but for girls that have 'nothing' left they sure are irritated.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Winhall, VT
    Posts
    1,066

    Default Re: Robbed or Something Else?? Need Advice Please.

    A queenless hive is usually not the best tempered group of ladies. I think you may have had a swarm like others have said and the virgin never made it back. Not sure how much time you have to get them back to par but always worth a try if you can find a local queen quickly. Best of luck!
    Raising Vermont Bees one mistake at a time.
    USDA Zone 5A

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    North Tazewell, Virginia
    Posts
    345

    Default Re: Robbed or Something Else?? Need Advice Please.

    Been there dude that exact thing happened to me my 1st yr. Order a queen and hope for the best.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Garland County, AR
    Posts
    1,076

    Default Re: Robbed or Something Else?? Need Advice Please.

    I don't do tbh, but another option is salvage any hive resources, get a queen on order for spring, attend every meeting at your local club that you can, and start anew in the spring. You may be throwing good money after bad at this point. Your efforts and money and time may be better spent on education.
    Zone 7b ~ Central Arkansas
    8fr medium equipment

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    owensboro,ky
    Posts
    2,240

    Default Re: Robbed or Something Else?? Need Advice Please.

    best time or not,bad tempered or not,rain, whatever,if you dont find out about the queen soon resign yourself to losing the hive.
    "Wine is a constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy" Ben Franklin

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Highland, MD, USA
    Posts
    13

    Default Re: Robbed or Something Else?? Need Advice Please.

    Dug through the whole hive and I'm not sure I'm buying that there was a swarm. The marked queen that I got this spring is in there, I saw her on one of the frames with the little silver spot on her just like she was when I put her in. There is some capped brood on several frames, there is however hardly any capped honey. There are also small hive beetles present, but no signs of shb larva, no slime, no black goo, nothing. There was some wax and 'debris' on the floor of the hive.

    They are eating, they cleaned out 3/4 of a bottle of 2:1 syrup and I put a fresh container in when we inspected. The feeder is inside the hive so I'm not encouraging robbers from outside. The TBH I bought had plastic type screen over holes along the top of the hive for ventilation, everyone of those has been chewed through. I closed off the ones that are in the part of the hive that's not in use until we can put metal mesh over them. I also blocked off one of the lower holes that was at the very far end that they were using as an entrance because either they or someone else chewed through the last ventilation hole at the end giving three points of access to the hive in one spot. While I'm no expert I suspect that could make guarding the entrance a little challenging.

    I took the classes thanks for the suggestion though.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    owensboro,ky
    Posts
    2,240

    Default Re: Robbed or Something Else?? Need Advice Please.

    If you have a queen and laid brood you are doing exactly right-close down the entry's , back up on the occupied space and feed.
    Keep an eye as close you can and don't let them run out of food or get overrun by the beetles.
    "Wine is a constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy" Ben Franklin

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Belpre,Ohio, USA
    Posts
    1,248

    Default Re: Robbed or Something Else?? Need Advice Please.

    Ldy,

    With the screen chewed through, wax debris on the floor, hardly any stores, and the queen still present I would venture to say that your hive just went through a vary intense robbing frenzy. To have any hope of this hive making it through the upcoming winter continue as you are doing, feed 2:1 syrup as fast as they will take it while avoiding any open feeders which can trigger another robbing event, you don't have much time left to this season but the goldenrod is in bloom so this will help. Sounds like you have done all the right things to help your hive recover, I wish you the best.
    Bill...in Southeast Ohio

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Highland, MD, USA
    Posts
    13

    Default Re: Robbed or Something Else?? Need Advice Please.

    Greetings all just sort of an update on my bees and some additional thoughts on my part in the off chance that it could help anyone else

    I'm still feeding a 2:1. Did a full inspection this weekend and saw the queen, both capped/uncapped honey, pollen stores, brood and we condensed the space. The temperament of the hive is back to a more docile buzz too. I'm cautiously optimistic.

    The hive beetles are still present (must admit to enjoying the crunching sound when I got them with my hive too!) I didn't see any larva on anything though so I'm hoping that there isn't any with the cold starting to set in I can get rid of most of these things. I know I'll never be rid of all of them but with some big changes we are going to make to the area where the hive is I'm hoping we can at least break up the cycle and help the bees keep them under control. I really hate those things, they are like the stinkbugs of the beehive!

    While listening to some beekeepers talking I heard something interesting (you can learn a lot from listening to long time beekeepers talking) two were saying how they've had cases of their bees eating all their honey and then having little if nothing left. It had me wondering if that's what happened when the dearth hit, did the queen slow down production so much that the hive shrank and they ate all their stores? It occurred to me that if that is the case shame on me for not continuing to feed for the entire season, I know I'll never know for sure what happened while I was gone (I've added an outdoor web cam for bird watching to my list of things I need for my bees lol) but in any case having thoughts of what could've happened will help me from making the same mistakes in the future.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Alachua County, FL, USA
    Posts
    6,765

    Default Re: Robbed or Something Else?? Need Advice Please.

    Robbing or possibly another intruder like yellow jackets or ants. Hungry bees and robber bees don't usually go "through" comb.
    americasbeekeeper.com
    beekeeper@americasbeekeeper.com

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Garland County, AR
    Posts
    1,076

    Default Re: Robbed or Something Else?? Need Advice Please.

    Quote Originally Posted by ldygardener View Post
    ...two were saying how they've had cases of their bees eating all their honey and then having little if nothing left. It had me wondering if that's what happened when the dearth hit, did the queen slow down production so much that the hive shrank and they ate all their stores?
    That's exactly what will happen just before they starve to death. I agree with AmBee tho - when a dearth happens, they don't go "through" the comb. They just clean it out - clean as a whistle. Sad to say, been there, done that. My first dearth with bees. It's how I learned that there ARE times I will definitely feed. The fact that there were still existing bees does still leave things up in the air. They obviously didn't die out. I'm voting with the robbing theory.
    Zone 7b ~ Central Arkansas
    8fr medium equipment

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Belpre,Ohio, USA
    Posts
    1,248

    Default Re: Robbed or Something Else?? Need Advice Please.

    ldy,
    I do not have hive beetles so I am no expert on the subject but I did read someplace where you could spray or pour Clorox on the ground in the areas around your hives, this is suppose to kill the beetle larvae that make it back outside of the hive to burrow into the ground and spend the winter only to arise in the spring and start pestering you all over again.
    Bill...in Southeast Ohio

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Landing, NJ, USA
    Posts
    198

    Default Re: Robbed or Something Else?? Need Advice Please.

    Without knowing for sure I don't think the bad actors mentioned (robbers, ants, yellow jackets) have the tools to break through plastic screening so I am thinking that some other bad actor (mouse, perhaps bird, skunk, or vandal) began this problem. Once the screen was broken the secondary invaders (robbers etc) compounded it. Metal screen on the vent holes and mouse guard on reduced entrance seem appropriate. Whatever did the initial break in remembers where your hive is and may come back.

    Good luck
    Bill

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Highland, MD, USA
    Posts
    13

    Default Re: Robbed or Something Else?? Need Advice Please.

    I promise it's not mice, skunks or birds. My TBH is on legs that make it roughly 42" off the ground. The entrance is on the side and is about the size of a wine cork. The upper ventilation holes are the same size and I know for a fact that the honey bees are more than capable of chewing through the plastic screen that 'was' on there because they did so shortly after being installed, they preferred the upper ventilation hole as an entrance to what was supposed to be their entrance. In any event I share my information for the poor soul who may have to go through all of this. If you buy a pre-made TBH do check to see what the ventilation holes are covered with and make sure that if it has a viewing window that it is well sealed in place. Our very first issue with this hive before the bees were even in there was the window bowing out, we thought we had fixed it and then found out AFTER we installed the bees that was NOT the case.

    My next hives we are building!

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Ft Myers, Fl 33967
    Posts
    158

    Default Re: Robbed or Something Else?? Need Advice Please.

    Angie,
    I run TBH and have had the same experience. Every time it was SHB. You don't see many of them because they run from the light and hide in the empty cells. The holes are caused by the larva chewing their way through.
    If you take a large plastic sealable bag to the hive along with a Propane torch, smoke the hive hard, open the lid and put a cloth over the whole top of the hive, pull the frame closest to one end and brush the bees back into the hive, place the frame and comb into the bag, press the air out and seal the bag except for 2 inches, stick the propane torch into the bag and let the gas fill the bag up until it is about 3 inches thick, pull the torch and seal the bag, in about 30 seconds the beetles will start to run, shake them into the bottom of the bag and squish them, in another 30 seconds or so the larva will come out of the comb and can be shaken off the comb. When there are no more larva crawling on the comb put it back in the hive and repeat with the next frame.
    You can keep the beetles out of the hive by painting the inside with latex paint.
    You need to do it soon.
    Regards
    Joe

  19. #19
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Garland County, AR
    Posts
    1,076

    Default Re: Robbed or Something Else?? Need Advice Please.

    Yum! Propane flavored honey!
    Zone 7b ~ Central Arkansas
    8fr medium equipment

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Postville, Iowa, USA
    Posts
    380

    Default Re: Robbed or Something Else?? Need Advice Please.

    " ... not mice ... My TBH is on legs that make it roughly 42" off the ground. The entrance is on the side and is about the size of a wine cork...."

    You may well have not had a mouse problem with this particular hive in this particular instance. I am more inclined to agree with the others who think your hive was robbed out.

    But just so's you know for the future, mice can and will get into a TBH designed like yours.

    In other BeeSource discussions, TBH beekeepers have noted that mice have gotten into their hives with the entrance covered with 1/2" wire mesh, but not if the openings in the wire are about 3/8". That correlates with my experience as well as my understanding that an adult mouse can get through a hole the size of a dime. They can also jump and climb very well, especially if motivated by food and shelter.

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