I am a first year beekeeper in the Denver, CO area, and am hoping someone may be able to give me some advice.
I picked up and installed my nuc back on June 1st, so it's been almost 6 weeks. My concerns are that the colony doesn't seem to be doing much. There's no new comb being built out, and although I see a few eggs and brood, it's just not much. In fact, I think the population is actually shrinking. As of the night of July 7th, I only had a total of one side of a frame's worth of bees (95% of my population was on 2 sides, each ~1/2 covered in bees). The rest of the sides of the frames that came with the nuc had a handful of bees on them, and nothing on the remaining 5 in the box. This inspection was around 7pm, so I don't think there would have been a large amount out foraging. I have checked my video from the nuc install and had at least a good 2-3 full frames (i.e. 4-6 sides) of bees to start out with. So it seems like I've lost 1/2-2/3 of my population.
I did see larva at all stages this week, and some eggs. But not very much. And I think there is capped brood - but, again, not very much (and honestly, to my untrained eye, it could be capped honey. The cappings are dark though and some look to be chewed out where bees hatched, so I thought brood). There are a couple open emergency queen cells. They have always been very docile and calm throughout install, and each of the inspections I've done.
I have done 3 inspections and have not yet spotted the queen - but, I have chalked this up to being a beginner. I haven't been too worried because I have been seeing larva and eggs.
I have been giving sugar water and also put a pollen patty on the frames for a week - but they aren't touching either. I figure they probably aren't drawing new comb yet because they simply don't need it - they haven't even started putting anything in the remaining drawn out frame that came with the nuc.
Mostly, I'm just wondering if I should be worried about the lack of activity and particularly, the shrinking population - or if they are likely just fine and this is normal and I need to be patient. We have had a very cool and wet spring, so maybe they're just slow to take off.
I have not yet done an alcohol wash to test for mites - was planning to do that at the month mark but the population is so low and I also can't find the queen, so it makes me nervous to take so many and also potentially risk the queen being in there. I do have a screened bottom board that I put vaseline on and monitor for mite drop daily or every other day as a way to kind of keep an eye on things (understanding that it is not the most accurate method). I haven't seen any mites drop since June 22, and the most I've ever seen on there over a 24 hour period is 2; most of the time it's 0-1. Of note, I have noticed what I believe are eggs on the bottom board though.
I have attached pictures of the two sides of frames that had more than a few bees on them. This is almost my entire population. Most of the rest of the frames are empty or just honey. I also attached a pic of what I think is an egg on the bottom board - I know it's hard to tell without a scale, but I have seen many of these over the last month.
What do you think? Do I have anything to be worried about and if so, what would you do to try to help them correct? I hope I'm not past a point of no return.