I live in central Kansas. I have a large vegetable garden and several large flower gardens. I've lived in this location for 11 years. Until three years ago I had lots of bees every morning and most of the day. Over the past three years I've been pollinating my plants with a Q-tip because there simply are no bees visiting my location. I check frequently and last year I only saw two bees the entire year.
So, I put the word out to some friends to help find me a bee hive. ( I should mention, all I know about bees I've learned in the past 30 days from reading forums like this and watching youtube videos.)
I have purchased a beginner starter kit : qty 1, 9 1/8" brood box and qty 2, 6 5/8" supers along with the other starter stuff. All I need are the bees, more knowledge and spring to arrive.
Problem: a couple of days after Christmas (2015) a friend called. They had cut down a tree and it contained a hive. They cut the trunk into two foot sections for splitting and wood burning. They cut the hive in half. One guy took the bottom half of the hive and honey, then they called me to see I wanted the hive. So, I have a small hive in a hollowed tree trunk. It's about 2' long and 18" diameter. The actual hollow is about 10" in diameter. There's an entrance hole in the trunk about 2.5" in diameter. The log split in half so I put 3/4" plywood on the the top and bottom of the section to contain the hive and hold the two halves together. I covered the entrance hole, wrapped the entire thing in plastic and transported it home.
I took a photo of the hive through the access hole on day one. There was lots of honey and I could only see a few bees. Then the weather turned cold, about 3 oF and within about 2 weeks all the honey visible near the entrance hole had disappeared (they ate it). While is was really cold I moved the entire log/hive into my unheated garage. It stays about 12 oF warmer than the outside (with no wind to contend with). I noticed the plywood top that overhands the access hole was covered with frost so there are obviously bees keeping it warm inside and generating moisture. I took the plastic wrap off the hive and fully opened the access hole now that it is inside.
On Jan 11, 2016, I made some sugar/salt grease patties with tea tree oil, drilled a 1/2" diameter hole in the top plywood, built a 1 1/2" tall spacer about 15" square and put it on the top of the hive so the bees can access the grease patty if they want. The spacer has a plywood cover.
Until I drilled the 1/2" diameter hole I had no idea if there were 20 bees inside or 2000. Drilling the hole caused a lot of excitement in the hive, about 20 came up through the new 1/2" hole and it got very noisy inside the log as the bees moved around. Within about 1 minute they all went back down the hole and a couple of minutes later it quieted down. Given the noise level and when I look inside the access hole I suspect the hive contains about 250-300 bees. It's been 24 hours with the grease patty and they, so far, have no interest in it. This morning I laid a 100w infrared heat lamp near the log. The minute I tuned the bulb on the bees became very excited, about 20 of them came out to investigate the light source. The lamp was about 6" from the log and within about 60 seconds the bark was started to smoke and turned black. So, I shut it down. When I left two bees were investigating the blackened bark. Very curious ladies I must say. I wish my wife was that curious.
How can you help?
Given the small size of the hive and not knowing how many bees or how much food stores these guys have, what are the odds these ladies survive?
Should I provide heat in the form of infrared heat lamp, I can just keep backing it up until the flames go down.
Should I provide 2:1 syrup?
or, just leave them alone and wait and see.
I don't intend to try and move them into the 10 frame brood box until maybe March or April.
It was a long story. If you made it this far maybe you can give me some advice. If they don't survive I'll end up buying a three pound hive and start from scratch.