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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Cordova, TN, USA
    Posts
    105

    Default Hive absconded within the last month - Tennessee

    Bad year for me - 3 out of 4 hives dead or missing. 2 last fall, and one in the past month. We've had a couple of severe cold snaps and weather where I couldn't go open up the hive. Yesterday was the mid-50's so we took the time to go check them out.

    One hive has more nectar than I can shake a stick at. Rather interesting, since I have absolutely no idea where they got it - things are still very brown and nothing that I know of is blooming. I had sugar/pollen patties laying on the top bars, but they didn't eat more than a 1/2 cup total (guessing here, but there wasn't much gone). Time to give them room I suppose.

    The other hive is the one I need advice about. Here are the observations.

    1. Plenty of sugar/pollen patty remaining.
    2. Some nectar and a few capped honey cells.
    3. No bees. Not dead, just everyone missing. 4 or 5 dead bees on the bottom board, but probably due to there being no pall-bearers available.
    4. Newly hatched brood (I assume this because the caps are jagged, meaning no one was left to clean the comb up)?
    5. Some drone cells (about 30 or so), some still in the cells, some hatched.
    6. No capped brood, but saw some with nectar in cells. White normal brood, but some appeared brown I suppose due to them freezing this past couple of weeks and dying. All seemed to have nectar in the cells with them.
    7. No evidence of varroa that we could see. I didn't think of it yesterday, but I'll post-mortem the remaining drone larvae to see if I see any.
    8. No hive beetles either, except in the oil tray under the SBB (with it being so cold here I'm not surprised).

    Last fall we inspected but just could not spot the queen. The hive was quite full of bees and some capped brood, so we assumed there had to be a queen there. Last month when I refreshed the sugar/pollen patties they were still there in considerable numbers it seemed, but I didn't go into the hive (temps high 40's, low 50's), and I didn't have the time that day anyway.

    Can anyone suggest why this hive seems to have deserted the hive in the past month? And where did they go?
    A second question - I assume the drawn comb from the hive is ok to use. Is this right?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
    Posts
    5,122

    Default Re: Hive absconded within the last month - Tennessee

    How do you know they absconded? Old sick bees leave the hive to get away from their colony. Here in the north these bees will be dead on the ground. In TN, they must have been able to fly so the dead bees are out there in the field, scattered actor the area. Could that be what you're seeing, and not necessarily absconding?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Cordova, TN, USA
    Posts
    105

    Default Re: Hive absconded within the last month - Tennessee

    Michael, the hive was empty. Totally. It was about 3:30 here when we looked at that one, and if they HAD all left, some of them should have been returning by then...

    That would be great if they were out for a joyride, but ALL of them? Including the queen?

  4. #4

    Default Re: Hive absconded within the last month - Tennessee

    Not an uncommon failure driven frequently by varroa. Developing winter bees that were heavily parasitized emerge weakened. They aren't durable enough to survive the challenge of winter. As they fail, any remaining able bodied bees haul off the carcasses. In the end only a few remain to die in the hive. This isn't necessarily what happened but, in my opinion, it is the most common scenario.
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Sacramento,California,USA
    Posts
    3,273

    Default Re: Hive absconded within the last month - Tennessee

    It could be from varroa and related diseases. Did you see any varroa feces in the empty brood cells? It could be the queen failed, did you notice any old queen cells on the combs that may have failed?

    As the hive gets less and less populations, from failing queen or other reasons, they will reach a point where the remaining bees will gradually migrate over to healthy hives in the yard. From what you've said, you have one good remaining hive? My guess would be that the healthy bees that remained at the end, migrated over to the one good hive that you have left.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Cordova, TN, USA
    Posts
    105

    Default Re: Hive absconded within the last month - Tennessee

    Beemandan, I'll check for varroa in those drone cells. But no, in the other hive, I didn't see evidence of varroa at all on the bees. Doesn't mean that's not happening, just didn't see any.

    I wondered about the queenlessness myself, since we couldn't find her, but finding uncapped brood sorta kills that theory. There wasn't a lot there but I wouldn't have expected a lot in the cold winter we're having. There were a few bees dead as mentioned...

    The other hive is about 20 feet away, so they could have gone there.

    I'll check for dead bees around the hive and see if I see mites on them. I assume the mites will have died in the cold too?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Cordova, TN, USA
    Posts
    105

    Default Re: Hive absconded within the last month - Tennessee

    I have another question - last week it was still below 20 here for a couple of days. What in the world is blooming here? I'm stumped as to where the surviving hive got all that nectar.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Sacramento,California,USA
    Posts
    3,273

    Default Re: Hive absconded within the last month - Tennessee

    Perhaps it's what they've robbed so far from your other dead-outs.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Cordova, TN, USA
    Posts
    105

    Default Re: Hive absconded within the last month - Tennessee

    Could be... Thanks

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Elkton, Giles, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    1,242

    Default Re: Hive absconded within the last month - Tennessee

    The irregularity of late winter seasons goes on in this period of climate change. Will not guess at the cause of your problem, but an empty hive and no queen, with brood in developement, smacks of abscond. The queen could be light enough to fly with limited egg-laying at this point in the season. Normally, whatever that is, there would be only capped brood in an abscond situation - it takes some time to trim the queen's weight, and she wouldn't be laying for that period.

    Checked landing board traffic on Harold's few at his residence yesterday. No pollen coming in - All nectar. Had not ever seen that at this time of year. Pollen foraging is typically the primary need in Feb, here. Feeding on diluted honey, they need pollen to kick off broodnest expansion.

    Two weeks ago, we found more than half the colonies had their clusters at the inner cover. Highly irregular. We raised the empty deep up above the cluster and comb fed all those with less than a full shallow of capped honey in reserve. That situation of cluster at the top likely resulted from not getting the broodnest backfilled in the fall, and relocating up on capped honey just into freezing nights. Harold checked a couple days after the reversal and all had moved their sugar water down into the brood nest, and he comb fed more syrup. With warmer weather coming in, am eager to check the status now.

    In south AL, '02, they had what was called "disappearing disease." Whole outyards disappeared. The upper limit of the losses was just south of me, across the state line where a few colonies disappeared. I had no losses but did have a rash of early supersedures. Did my own independent investigation and concluded that it was a case of early absconds. A late freeze had taken out the blooms further south, but my trees had not advanced to the most vulnerabe stage of developement. I tell this story to make the point that early absconds can happen.

    Walt

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