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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is the beekeeping 101 forum, and failing hives are something that you will have learn to deal with both physically and emotionally to ever get past being a beginner.

Bees are livestock. Livestock dies sometimes. This is a fact.

In another thread someone was asking how to save an "extremely weak" hive. I guess everyone should try to save such a hive at least once, but what you will learn is that by the time a hive can be accurately described as extremely weak it is a Lost Cause - except possibly in early spring. By summer it is a waste to try to save the hive.

Instead try to save the comb. Assuming that the hive secumbed to queen issues or something other than American Foul Brood saving any usable comb will give you a headstart the next time around. Generally that means shaking out the bees and freezing the comb or giving it to other strong hives that can use it. Trying to save the bees will usually result in wasting brood from a donor hive, perhaps a purchased queen, and ultimately the comb and even frames if hive beetles move in - which they will if you live in hive beetle land. And a long lingering death for any remaining bees. If you shake them out they will beg into another home.

The best way to avoid it is to prevent hives from getting this weak, but sooner or later it will happen. Which is why you need more than one hive, and to learn how to make splits.

If you really just want one hive in the garden to pollinate your apple tree I suggest an empty setup with a hummingbird feeder inside. On a sunny summer day it will look about the same.
 

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for someone like you or i david a failing hive is more of a liability than an asset no doubt about it, and i agree that any drawn comb is better utilized on a hive that can do something with it for the remainder of the season or stored away safely to be used next season.

but for the beginner with that one failing hive, anything they do with it good, bad, or otherwise advances them up the learning curve a little bit more. at that stage any experience is valuable, and productive use of time and resources is secondary.

the biggest mistake this beginner made was not having someone with experience helping them in the early stages, and i get the impression that he/she didn't spent much time on the book learning part of it.

i used to joke that i made 10 years worth of mistakes in my first 6 months of beekeeping, and it's really not much of an exaggeration. i guess it was the stubborn streak in me that made me persist past all of that.

having said that, and if i came across someone in this situation around here this late in the season who came to me asking for advice, it would likely be to shake them out and freeze the comb as you suggested david,

followed by join the bee club, observe other beekeepers working their hives, spend the winter doing your homework, and arrange for a little help next spring.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Cheap shot.


JMO

Rusty
I invest a good bit of time and effort into helping people get started beekeeping - I'm talking about real world, hands (and veil) on time and effort, not hanging out on the internet. Quite a few of them DO get a good start and achieve success as hobby beekeepers. Plenty of others though lose interest almost as soon as they get bees, or at least by the time the weather turns hot.

The point is that beekeeping isn't for everyone - and there is no shame in that. Pretty much ANY degree of success is going to require a minimum commitment in time and resources - and (in my opinion) one hive isn't going to clear that bar. Ten hives won't clear that bar if you don't do your part. I know both kinds of beekeepers. I'm thinking of actual people I know, and they would probably be better off taking up another hobby.

The point of my admittedly snarky comment about a box with a hummingbird feeder in it is that if someone insists that they are only willing to have one hive (and some do say that - many come around when they become better informed) they won't ever have the resources that they need to continue to be a beekeeper for an extended time. I don't think that it is unfair or unkind to say so - I'm sorry if it sounds mean spirited. That is not what I intended.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
but for the beginner with that one failing hive, anything they do with it good, bad, or otherwise advances them up the learning curve a little bit more. at that stage any experience is valuable, and productive use of time and resources is secondary.
I agree with everything you are saying, and I will add this - I completely understand the compulsion to try anything possible to save a weak hive when you have very few to begin with.
 

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I agree with everything you are saying, and I will add this - I completely understand the compulsion to try anything possible to save a weak hive when you have very few to begin with.
if you only have two hives losing one is a big deal that`s 50%. if you have 50 hives one is not a big deal. I make more by mistake any more than I have kept in the past. was trying to change out several med supers that I left on last year because I was afraid my bees would not have enough honey to do them through the winter. picked them up shook all the bees out put them over a queen excluder left them about 6 weeks was going to take them off and extract them. oops some of them had new queens in them. so I just ran a two queen system for a while then set them on a new stand with their own bottom board and lid. the best of all worlds:
 

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David
perhaps I missed it in your comments. But why can they not extract the honey from the dead hives (assuming there is some) and then simply store the frames for next year?
 

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There is a natural cycle to bee hives in the wild, and that includes the hive dying out and wax moths eating all the brood comb, followed by more bees finding it in a good year and re-establishing a hive. Not a problem for "feral" bees, but a pain in the sitting part for humans keeping bee hives for honey production.

I learned the hard way not to start with a single hive, as any failure or your part of lack of vigor on the part of the bees will often result in no bees at all and a waste of money and time other than the left-over drawn comb (which is lost if you cannot protect it from wax moths!).

I'm aiming for six or seven hives eventually, so that I will almost always have resources to boost a weak hive or replace a lost queen and be able to make up overwintering nucs without depleting working hives. Gonna take a while as I don't want to spend a pile of money on packages or nucs, but I'm up to three at the moment and my brother has three, so we should have at least three survive the winter.

I am nursing a couple of tiny late swarms, as much to learn from the experience as anything else. Can't really to wrong if they fail, they were free other than the drive to get them and the small amounts of sugar I've fed them so far. As far as failing hives, I've learned that lesson too, and would not have tried to save the one I had a couple years ago, I'd have used the comb for a new package or a split.

Peter
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
You could - if there is enough extractable honey to mess with. A lot of the time by the time a hive is "extremely weak" in mid summer it has been robbed and either doesn't have much honey - or what honey there is might be starting to weep because of emerging hive beetle larva.

Hive beetles are the enemy here, you have to counter them every way possible to save the comb from a failing hive. In three days a hive can go from looking weak but OK to a mass of beetle maggots. Once you see it you will not want to repeat it.
 
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