I just started my first two hives this year...one is doing well and one is not, but that will be another thread one day. This week, I was asked if I would tend to two hives that had not been opened in at least ten years. This gardener has 10 acres of fruit and flowers and says that the hives have thrived, almost died out and now thrive again. So to make a long story short, I arrived and saw that the hives were dilapidated and in need of repair before they topple over. Bees were busy all around the hive and it took some work just to get the cover off. Both hives had 100s if not 1000s of fire ants and their larvae all over the inner cover. With even greater effort I got the inner cover off. What a mess. Dark brown comb everywhere but bees very active. I didn't notice that the ants were in the comb except for the larvae that fell through the opening in the inner cover. The bees could only come and go thru holes in the top box as the bottom entrance on each hive have been long since clogged. One hive has 4 deeps and the other has 3 and that is it. No excluder, or any thing else. Side note, bees were as mad as I have ever seen bees when I tried to pry the top box off.
So, what to do. I even wonder if they are able to use the bottom boxes. Can bees coexist peacefully with ants? Is there a way to eradicate the ants without harming the bees? The bees are doing their job of pollinating this property so I don't want to ruin anything. My novice thinking is to put a new bottom box and bottom board, but do I dare take away one or two deeps from them and provide new ones? Queen excluder and honey super yet? Not sure what to do but am thinking some of you have dealt with this situation. I will post some pics if I can figure out how. Thanks, everyone! Bert