Yesterday (7/221/13) My boyfriend and I went to check our four hives only to discover that two of them were all gone with only a few bees and a queen remaining.
A little background information regarding the hives and their conditions a month ago. As stated above we have four hives known as "the big hive", "the weak hive", "the split hive" and "the new hive".
The "big hive" was originally a package of bees purchased from Beeweaver in April of 2012 and was our first hive. As of a month ago, this hive was strong and healthy with one deep hive body, two honey supers and packed full of bees.
The "weak hive" is a combination of two hives of bees that we trapped out last year. Neither hive was doing well so we combined them using the newspaper method in August of 2012. By this spring they were doing very well. Even though we still refer to it as the "weak hive" it is our second largest hive. The hive consists of one hive body and two honey supers.
The "split hive" is a split we took off the "big hive" in April of this year. As of last month they were also doing well. It consists of one hive body.
The "new hive" is a package of bees we purchased April of this year from Beeweaver and they also were also strong and healthy, quickly doubling in their numbers. It consists of one hive body.
Back to my original story, when we checked the bees yesterday, the "big hive" and the "split hive" were both gone (remember the split originally came from the big hive). The "split hive" has about 1 1/2 frames worth of bees left and the queen. The "big hive" has 2 to 3 frames of bees left and their queen. In both hives the remaining bees appear healthy from all appearances. Both hives have eggs, larvae, capped brood, pollen and honey. The "split hive" did have a lot of small hive beetles but we figure that would be normal since there aren't enough bees remaining in the hive to control their numbers. We also found one wax moth in that same hive.
All our hives are located on 42 acres and as of a month ago we hadn't encountered any diseases or insect infestations in any of our hives and they were all doing well and going strong.
This morning we are only left with questions...
1) Does this sound like CCD?
2) Can we combine the remaining bees in the "big hive" and the "split hive" in hopes they will be strong enough in numbers to pull through?
3) Are the boxes and equipment from these two hives contaminated or can they be salvaged somehow?
4) If we do combine the two hives should they be moved to a new location away from the two remaining hives that are still doing well (we hope)?
5) Can the honey from the "big hive" be taken home and slung? They have two supers full of honey but we don't know if we can eat the honey or not.
6) Is there anything we can do for the two hives that don't seem affected, other then just keeping an eye on them?
It's devastating to go out to your bees thinking you are going to be taking frames full of honey home to sling only to arrive to empty hives. Any input to what happened and what we can do moving forward is greatly appreciated.