First-time beekeeper with hive dwindling to nothing
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
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    Clinton, CT USA
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    20

    Default First-time beekeeper with hive dwindling to nothing

    I hived our three pound package of bees May 27th.Today is Day 41 for our hive and I'm sorry to report that our bees are diminishing in numbers and have not expanded since Day 21 when there were three and a half combs with active bees on them. These combs may be a bit larger now but the bees are not moving on to the next top bar to expand. There is capped brood with a small number of drone cells on each of the four bars. They are no longer pulling comb but just tending what they have. I don't see any evidence that bees have hatched although there has been capped brood for at least 25 days. I found one dead pupa on Day 38 (about 15 - 16 days development according to charts I have consulted). The situation looks pretty hopeless. There is very little traffic at the entrance . . . easy to count one or two bees coming and going. I doubt if I have a thousand bees left . . . probably far fewer. It's like watching a dear friend succumb to a terminal illness.

    I witnessed one alarming event on Day 4 which I found described exactly in Beekeeping for Dummies as a "robber attack". I didn't find the article until weeks after the event so the suggestions listed were of no help. I can't help but think that this was responsible for the current condition of my hive.

    I look forward to comments and suggestions but ask you to remember that I am a new beekeeper so be gentle.

    K Sumner in CT

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Gladys, VA
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    97

    Default Re: First-time beekeeper with hive dwindling to nothing

    Any signs of eggs? Are you feeding them? Can you find the Queen?
    ----
    Joe

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Solano, California, USA
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    2,095

    Default Re: First-time beekeeper with hive dwindling to nothing

    Quote Originally Posted by tibadoe View Post
    Any signs of eggs? Are you feeding them? Can you find the Queen?


    To add a little more: If a picture is worth a thousand words then 2 or 3 pictures would surely help the people on BS give you the correct answer without having to guess or write a book. The information provided gives us little or no clues.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    adair county, kentucky, usa
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    461

    Default Re: First-time beekeeper with hive dwindling to nothing

    Not to be discouraging, but if you are down to less than 1000 bees you probably won't save that hive. Do you still have a queen in the hive? If you do there should be no problem finding her with that small amount of bees. If so find a local beek and see if he will sell you a couple of frames of bees and brood. If there is no queen go buy a nuc of bees and combine what you have left with them. As a person without many resources such as drawn comb and other hives to use to boost a struggling package you are much better off buying a nuc of bees. With a nuc you get plenty of bees and a couple of frames of brood and a couple frames of honey. This really helps get your bees going.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Clinton, CT USA
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    20

    Default Re: First-time beekeeper with hive dwindling to nothing

    I'm sorry but I have to admit that although I have pictures that, I think, clearly show larva in uncapped many uncapped cells, I have no idea how to post them. I am feeding sugar syrup 1:1. There are a few drone cells and what appears to my untrained eye to be the start of at least one queen cell!

    On the bottom of this page on the right it says under permissions that I can post attachments - [IMG] code is on - but I don't see how to do it. Oh, I think I see it in the icons above, third from the right. Will try in my next reply.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Clinton, CT USA
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    20

    Default Re: First-time beekeeper with hive dwindling to nothing

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill91143 View Post
    Not to be discouraging, but if you are down to less than 1000 bees you probably won't save that hive.
    Quote Originally Posted by Bill91143 View Post
    Not to be discouraging, but if you are down to less than 1000 bees you probably won't save that hive.
    This is exactly what I fear will be the case. I have no beekeeper contacts in this area, most especially not top bar beekeepers. You say a nuc would be best but isn't that specifically for Langstroth hives? Could I use one on my top bar hive?

    I do believe I still have a queen because of the larva I see. However, I haven't spotted her lately and I did see the start of what I think is a queen cell. I've even begun to distrust my past queen sightings because of the condition of my hive.

    I have three pictures that I am attaching to attach to this message. I hope it works. IMG_1531.jpgIMG_0517.jpgIMG_0531.jpg

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Imperial, MO, USA
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    161

    Default Re: First-time beekeeper with hive dwindling to nothing

    Kit, I see what looks like uncapped drone brood - are you able to see ANY uncapped worker brood?
    In the 2nd picture, it looks like a smallish queen cell toward the upper right. So if your hive is queenright (presence of eggs or uncapped worker brood), there may be a problem with the queen and they're replacing her. If they aren't queenright, then they appear to be trying to fix the problem themselves.
    "Teach your kids to hunt and fish, and you won't have to hunt for your kids"
    Four Ridge Apiaries www.fourridgebees.com

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Clinton, CT USA
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    20

    Default Re: First-time beekeeper with hive dwindling to nothing

    rlsiv, I noticed that smallish queen cell and a couple others but wasn't entirely sure what I was looking for (being "book taught"!)

    I know what a capped drone cell looks like. I'm attaching two pictures with what I hope are some uncapped worker bees in with the capped workers.

    IMG_0533.jpg

    IMG_0529.jpg

    Thank you for any input.

  10. #9
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    Jun 2013
    Location
    adair county, kentucky, usa
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    461

    Default Re: First-time beekeeper with hive dwindling to nothing

    It looks like capped honey in these last photos.

  11. #10
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    Jan 2013
    Location
    longton, kansas USA
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    623

    Default Re: First-time beekeeper with hive dwindling to nothing

    queen cell. keep diligently feeding.i see no capped worker brood. slim chance u can save the hive. put the excluder on the smallest entrance .

    i always recommend people buy atleast 2 packages or nucs of bees for this reason. no place to pull resources from. contact ur local beekeepers and ask for some help. im sure they'll have problem lending a hand.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
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    Clinton, CT USA
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    20

    Default Re: First-time beekeeper with hive dwindling to nothing

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill91143 View Post
    It looks like capped honey in these last photos.
    That's depressing. I thought for sure I had capped workers. Darn!

  13. #12
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    Jun 2013
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    Clinton, CT USA
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    20

    Default Re: First-time beekeeper with hive dwindling to nothing

    Quote Originally Posted by tommysnare View Post
    queen cell. keep diligently feeding.i see no capped worker brood. slim chance u can save the hive. put the excluder on the smallest entrance .

    i always recommend people buy atleast 2 packages or nucs of bees for this reason. no place to pull resources from.
    I made a big mistake not starting two hives. That's what I will do next year.

    I found this discarded by the entrance three days ago so there must have been some egg-laying at some point, right?

    IMG_0173.jpg

  14. #13
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    May 2013
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    Gladys, VA
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    Default Re: First-time beekeeper with hive dwindling to nothing

    Normal for find some brood discarded by the entrance. The bees are just doing their thing. I find it on occasion myself.
    ----
    Joe

  15. #14
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    Feb 2011
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    Imperial, MO, USA
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    Default Re: First-time beekeeper with hive dwindling to nothing

    The other responses are dead on... that's capped honey in your last two photos, and it looks like nectar/honey in the adjacent open cells. Those have a waxy-to-shiny surface that is slightly concave, vs worker brood that is more of a "matte" finish look and is slightly convex (but not as pronounced as drone cells, which have a bullet-tip appearance). That queen cell looks like its on the small size, which isn't uncommon for emergency queen cells. With only the one hive, your options are limited - but I like Tommysnare's suggestion that you reach out to neighboring beekeepers for some assistance... that'd greatly enhance your options, and you may get lucky and find a mentor. The Connecticut Beekeepers meet in Hamden, which is only about 20 miles from you. Here is a link to their meeting schedule. They also have a Contact page. http://ctbees.com/meetings/
    "Teach your kids to hunt and fish, and you won't have to hunt for your kids"
    Four Ridge Apiaries www.fourridgebees.com

  16. #15
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    Jun 2013
    Location
    Clinton, CT USA
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    Default Re: First-time beekeeper with hive dwindling to nothing

    Thank you all for your thoughts and suggestions. I'm going to join the Connecticut Beekeepers immediately and try to learn from the members. So far local beekeepers have been hard to find. I think this hive is doomed because I have no capped worker bee cells and have never seen any. Don't laugh but I thought the honey cells were worker bee cells because I thought they came before honey cells. I think I have been without a queen for a long time perhaps back to the alarming event on Day 4 that I mentioned in my first paragraph. So, it is my understanding that even though the workers seem to be trying to build queen cells, they can't possibly make a queen without an egg fertilized by a queen. The dead pupa I found was probably the product of an egg-laying worker bee. I feel very foolish and ignorant.

    Thank you all again.

  17. #16
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    May 2010
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    Nelson, South Island, New Zealand
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    Default Re: First-time beekeeper with hive dwindling to nothing

    Kit you aren't the first person to think capped honey is worker brood.

    And you are right in thinking you have been without a queen for a long time probably very soon after hiving your package.

    Robbing will often occur when a hive is queenless and I think your hive was queenless before it was robbed rather then the robbing causing the queen to die.

    You are also right that the "queencell" will be useless and will not come to anything.

    So in reality you have learnt alot from this hive and it's lessons you can take forward to your next hive and that one will teach you more lessons.

    The wonderful thing about bees and beekeeping is you never stop learning no matter how long you have been keeping bees.

    I think you have the makings of a good beekeeper because you looked for answers to your problem rather than just ignoring it letting the hive die and starting again with no insight as to what went wrong.

    So many times a new beekeper will post the question, what happened to my hive?

    all they have is half a dozen bees no queen and they haven't looked inside it for 2 months!

    Better luck with your next hive Kit but it probably wont be the last time you have a hive die out. It's part and parcel of beeing a beekeeper

  18. #17
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
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    Greater Hartford area, CT
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    369

    Default Re: First-time beekeeper with hive dwindling to nothing

    Hi, Kit,
    I'm a first year beek in CT, too! My bees are goin like gangbusters, so I would be willin to give you one bar. My bars are 19 inches. Or if you're interested, you can contact White Oak Apiaries in Brewster New York. That is where I got my hive. You may be able to get some bars from him. I think he normally makes 17" bars. You can email me at [email protected] if you need more info.

    Btw, I also belong to the CT Beekeepers assoc, so maybe I'll see you there sometime!

  19. #18
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Clinton, CT USA
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    20

    Default Re: First-time beekeeper with hive dwindling to nothing

    Dear "frazzledfozzle"

    Thank you so much for your clear, intelligent and encouraging response. Your step-by-step statement of the situation I'm in (as well as the responses of other forum members) has given me the answer that, although dreaded, lets me know I have a failed hive without enough summer and resources to save it. I'm sure you are correct and I am now looking forward to next year's fresh start with TWO hives and a wealth of knowledge gained. You were very kind and helped quell my guilt . . . . . all the way from New Zealand!!!! You can be sure I will be studying up and making "beek" connections before hiving time next year.

    Thank you and the forum again for taking the time.
    Sincerely,
    Kit Sumner

  20. #19
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Arbovale, West Virginia, USA
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    12

    Default Re: First-time beekeeper with hive dwindling to nothing

    Kit,

    I had a very similar experience with my first TBH. I installed a package, then on the 4th or 5th day the bees absconded with the queen. The left-behinds were tending a tiny hive of about 5 combs, the largest about the size of a hand. Amazingly, they managed to replace the queen, and all but 1 of my current 5 hives are decended from this replacement queen. I was lucky to have enough summer left for that tiny bunch to recover.

    Good luck, and keep at it!

    Ray

  21. #20
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    Jun 2013
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    Cumberland Va.
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    Default Re: First-time beekeeper with hive dwindling to nothing

    Kit Im new to this too, I choose Langstroth but am considering a TBH next year. I too am facing difficulties in my first year, one struggling went laying worker.... successfully re queened and the other is booming. Keep your chin up, there is nothing more satisfying than the buzz around your head and the pollen stores coming home. It will get better. Good Luck. G

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