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Is my first bee hive fine?

995 Views 6 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  GregB
Hey Guys,

Nice to see this forum on bee keeping.

I am from southern India. Bought a hive on 1st August 2020 and it's over 1.5 months now. I have done a checkup yesterday to see what's going on inside the hive.
I found that one slot is completely empty and it's black in color. I took it out and kept aside and I was surprised to find a couple of of wax worms covering few cells with web. Now I have removed that slot from the hive. Below is the image of that.

Honeycomb Bee Beehive Honeybee Insect

One of the other slots is also black but have some bees in it. One is white and have some bees on it. What could be the reasons for less bees on slots and the blackening of the slots. And I did not find honey in any of the slots. I guess the closed cells are either eggs or pollen. Need your guidance. Below are the photos for reference.

Black slot with some bees
Bee Honeycomb Insect Beehive Honeybee

Other slots
Honeycomb Bee Insect Honeybee Membrane-winged insect

Bee Insect Honeybee Beehive Honeycomb

Bee Honeybee Insect Beehive Membrane-winged insect
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Hi. Firstly, welcome to the forum. What you're calling "slots" we call 'combs'. Combs start off life as pure white, and then gradually darken with use - partly due to the propolis (tree-gum) which the bees line the cells with, and partly due to dirty feet. All brood combs eventually turn black - honey-combs tend to stay white or off-white for much longer.

The capped cells are brood (inside them are larvae transforming into young bees). Pollen is always visible, and never obscured by wax cappings in the same way as brood is.

Is your colony fine ? No. But, it's impossible to give detailed advice with so many bees obscuring the cells (as in the last photograph), however the photograph above it shows several dead pupae, which looks to me like a case of chalk-brood.

With the exception of the comb in the bottom photograph (which may be viable) the absence of both honey and pollen in the other combs indicates a colony in trouble, and which needs feeding (with sugar syrup) as a matter of some urgency.

A strong healthy colony is well able to fend-off wax-moths, and that you have already discovered wax-moth worms is further evidence that this tiny colony is weak and in trouble.

Of course you are very welcome to seek advice here, but nothing beats the assistance of someone local, who would be far more familiar with your local conditions - which is important.

At the very least, could I suggest that you gently shake-off, or brush-off the bees from the comb shown in the bottom photograph, and re-photograph both sides.

Also - as a matter of urgency - can you please supply that colony with some sugar syrup. Otherwise they will starve.

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Thank you so much for your time and response. I had immediately placed sugar syrup on the day I investiaged the combs.
How often can we distirub the colony?. Have read that distrubing it frequently makes them run away :s
Is what you showed us all of the frames? If so it is a very small colony that will need protection, and as said above, some sugar syrup for food.

There is some brood, so it is not a dead colony, but the tiny number of bees is a problem. Put it in a small box, or use boards or cardboard to fill up the empty space on the sides of the box so they can control their temperature better and protect the hive from moths and other problem creatures. Hopefully they will expand numbers and you can remove the spacers later.

Perhaps a local beekeeper can give you some help. We will be mostly unfamiliar with your climate and local conditions.
Thank you so much for your time and response. I had immediately placed sugar syrup on the day I investiaged the combs.

How often can we distirub the colony?. Have read that distrubing it frequently makes them run away :s
There are no hard and fast rules regarding inspections, but I'd always recommend only opening a beehive when you really need to (for some important reason) - as opposed to just wanting to take a look (i.e. out of curiosity).

I was completely unaware that beekeeping is so important in your country: one internet site reports that 70% of your rural income comes from beekeeping, with the remaining 30% from agriculture.

AR1 makes the point that most of us here will be unfamiliar with your climate and local conditions, and to expand on that - nearly everybody on this forum operates within a time-limited seasonal setting, with the bees collecting honey during the active part of the season in order to survive the following winter. Whereas southern India is just a few degrees above the Equator, and so is very much a tropical setting, in which (I assume) various plants will be flowering all year long ? As such, it would appear to be an ideal part of the world to be keeping bees. :)

What you have right now is very much the equivalent of a human baby, which will need feeding and protecting. In time it will grow to what - ten or twenty times the size it is now ? - at which point it will be well able to look after itself and will need very little attention from you. But for a short while at least you will need to be "it's parent".

If it'll help - I did a Google for "indian beekeeping association", which returned lots of useful leads. One of them being:

Now I don't know what your own ambitions are, but if you have elementary woodworking skills (nothing fancy - as we're not talking about making furniture), then you could build-up a beekeeping operation for next to nothing. You don't need a bank loan (as suggested by that site), providing you can knock-up your own boxes and frames (should you decide to use frames).

The first step is to learn your craft (which is very important), and then gradually build-up your number of colonies, either by splitting what you have, or by catching swarms. Or you may choose to stay with a small number of colonies as a hobby-beekeeper ?

But - first things first - your initial priority now is to learn the craft of beekeeping. :)

Good luck
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Something tells me - these are Apis Cerana bees.
Something about the abdomen rings and the small size of the colony (akin to what we call here - a mating nuc - but more normal for A. Cerana).

mpadhu, can you take a picture of how the bees ventilate the entrance of your hive?
We want to see IF the bees are pulling the air OUT or the bees are pushing the air IN.
If you just say what you see - that is sufficient.
A. Cerana will be pushing the fresh air IN.
A. Mellifera will be pulling the stale air OUT.

FYI, no people on this forum have much significant experience in A. Cerana management.
How often can we distirub the colony?. Have read that distrubing it frequently makes them run away :s
This statement also is suggestive of Apis Cerana (a common local bee in Asia - so the local management would indeed mention the running away factor).
They will take off and leave IF disturbed too much (I don't know what does the "too much" mean).
If I understand, you only bother them to collect the honey, if you do - otherwise leave alone.
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