I started my first hive last Spring, and I ended up with an empty hive by the end of the summer. Iíd like to try again this Spring, and so Iím looking for some advice or thoughts that could help me be successful this year. Iím going to give some information about my set-up and events of last year, and then some thoughts I have, and invite people to provide whatever information they think could be helpful. Let me know if you have any questions for me. Thanks!
I live about a mile in from the Pacific coast in San Francisco, and I installed my hive on my roof mid April, 2016. Over the next couple of months I managed my hive very closely. The queen was laying, and I was moving empty bars into the brood nest to keep everyone happy. Once the brood nest was taking up around ⅔ of the hive, I stopped moving new bars into the brood nest. At the beginning of June I started noticing queen cells (I counted 10 over the next week or so). Around the same time the population exploded, which would make sense. At this point there was already a good amount of pollen and honey in the hive.
Then on June 18 the hive swarmed. I wasnít too concerned since I had seen the queen cells. I figured the bees that stayed in the hive would raise a new queen, and the hive would move on. I checked in on them 1-2 times a week to see if I could see any changes. A few days after the swarm all of the queen cells were gone, which I considered a good sign. I was told that it could take 6-8 weeks for the new queen to start laying, so I checked in on the hive 1-2 times a week, hoping to see a new queen, but for the most part I left them alone at the beginning. Then I wanted to see if eggs were being layed (and I still hadnít seen a queen), so after around 4 weeks I started going through the hive. I wasnít seeing a queen or any eggs. I let it ride for another 4 weeks, didnít see anything, and realized that the queen had not taken to the hive.
I contacted my local beekeeping association, and they set me up with someone who catches swarms in the area. A few days later I was putting a swarm into the hive. At first it seemed like things were going okay, but a couple of weeks later it was clear that there wasnít really anything going on in the hive. Either there was no queen in the swarm, or she didnít take to the hive. And from there the hive dwindled.
1. It gets windy on my roof. Could this be a factor? I really donít have another place to set up the hive. I was thinking for this year I would build an enclosure on the roof out of PVC pipe and plastic sheeting. I was originally thinking of a tunnel shape, but now Iím thinking 3 walls, no roof. Any thoughts?
2. Should I have 2 hives set up; one functional, and one to be used to split the hive if I notice theyíre getting ready to swarm?
3. I mentioned that when the hive got around ⅔ full, I stopped putting new bars into the brood nest. Was this a mistake? My thought process was that if I keep adding new bars to the brood nest the entire hive would end up filled with brood. But I think I was wrong in thinking that, because I realized later in the process that after the new bees are born they start filling some of the old brood cells with honey/pollen. So is that something they just do at the beginning to get their numbers up, and then they contract the brood nest?
4. I donít think there was any problem with the hive itself. I never saw excess moisture in the hive (and I have a screen/solid combo floor incase I did), never saw any pests or mites. It gets sun all day.
5. When I first got the hive I set up a water dish (shallow pan with rocks in it) for the hive. After a month I had yet to see any bee drinking from the dish, and because it was in the sun I would have to refill it every day or two, so I assumed they had found a different source for water, and I stopped filling it. Was this a mistake?
I canít think of any other info that may be helpful. If youíre still with me, thank you. This turned out to be much longer of a write-up then I thought it would be. Any thoughts would be very much appreciated. Thank you!