We set up our first hive last April, and the colony was doing great. 2 brood chambers and a honey super all packed by August. The outer frames still had some room left, so we left off adding another honey super until it began looking like an Indian Summer out here in Cali. If the bees were gonna keep finding abundant food thru the fall and maybe even early winter, more honey for all of us!
So in October we stole 2 full frames of honey and added a new box. Hive seemed sort of lacking in bees, but it was a really warm day and the pepper trees were full of bees, so I figured our girls were mostly out working.
2 weeks later I went to take a look and to my horror I found a bunch of wax casings and swarms of yellow jackets and robber bees. We snagged up the hive, and ended up getting about 5 gallons of honey out of it, but of course our colony was dead.
All summer and fall, the yellow jacket presence was heavy at the hive. I rooted out two yellow jacket hives on our own property, and there were at least 2 more that were preying on our girls - the yellow jackets pestering the hive would, in addition to killing and carrying away our girls, fight viciously with each other.
Put up a bunch of yellow jacket traps, but they only worked marginally. I'd catch & kill more yellow jackets with my butterfly net in an hour than the traps would catch in 3 days. On the final day, the air was so thick with the yellow jackets that I had to put the full bee suit on to just approach the hive. Now that our hive is gone I have a better appreciation of just how many yellow jackets we were up against, because without the hive as a food source the little devils are scouring for food everywhere. You can't walk across our yard without passing 20 or 30 of them hunting for prey in the grasses and weeds.
So... the million-dollar question - what can we do next year? Buy a more aggressive strain of bees? More traps? Is there a poison I can use that the yellow jackets will take back to their hive and kill them? Will having more than 1 hive present help rebuff invaders, or will that just be a bigger food source for them?
Ours were supposedly an extra-docile strain of Italians, and they really didn't appear to be putting up much of a fight. Sure, they'd drive yellow jackets out that actually tried to enter the hive, but that's where the chase ended, and the rebuffed yellow jacket would just keep trying until it manged to kill a returning bee, taking her body and her honey/pollen with it.
Thanks in advance.
-- Ouka, Bee-less in Cali