Went out to the farm to check up on the hives out there. One had very few bees flying in and out contrary to the others. I went in expecting bad and it was. I left them a lot of their own honey to over winter and there was lots still there. Going from top to bottom there was lots of honey some had been in process of being eaten and some still was by the only 4 or 5 bees still residing in the hive. Throughout the entire hive there was no cluster of bees, no brood or larva at all. Except for the frames with honey it was just empty drawn comb. In the box 2nd up from the bottom there was a nest of a small rodent of some kind adult still there and babies.
Already that or a rodent had been building nest inside that hive bringing nest material in and making a mess since last fall, and up in the top strangely. Of course I removed the nest material best I could and it made a mess because lots of it just fell down through the hive as I attempted to remove it. Even then I couldn't understand why the bees didn't kill it. Now this.
I know there has been documented cases that a mouse or some small rodent had gotten inside a hive and the bees killed it and then propalized the carcass because they couldn't get it out. Why my bees didn't do that and let that rodent run them out of their home is beyond me :s
I suspect that those '4 or 5 bees' don't actually live in that hive. Those bees are probably from another hive, and possibly harvesting remaining stores (robbers), or possibly scouts checking out potential new homes for a future swarm.
LB stuff like this happens, it's part of beekeeping, can't explain it sometimes. 5 years ago I bought 11 packages, put them in new equipment, all was good until 3 days later we saw a massive cloud of bees so thick you could barely see through them. I watched helplessly as they grouped together and flew off in all directions. When it was over, only 2 remained in their homes. The rest released the queen & left! Good news is I now have feral hives around my place. Hang in there, study the situation closely & see if you can learn from this.
I doubt if the bees left because of the mouse. It isn't uncommon to find mice nesting in a hive alive with bees. I found a pair of mice in one of my hives yesterday. Snuggled up in their nest while the bees came and went. And the hive was loaded with bees. When I disturbed the nest the mice began running around the inside of the hive....and then the bees discovered them....and then the trouble (for the mice) began. Mice are nocturnal....so during the day they stay concealed and at night while the bees are clustered, the mice go and forage.
I'm guessing that something else happened to your bees.
>Even then I couldn't understand why the bees didn't kill it.
The mouse moves in while the bees are clustered and dormant and builds a nest of thick fluffy material and buries itself in that. When a warm day comes along it is protected in the fluff and doesn't come out until the temperatues get cold.
>I know there has been documented cases that a mouse or some small rodent had gotten inside a hive and the bees killed it and then propalized the carcass because they couldn't get it out.
Those are mice who moved in while the bees were still active or didn't get their nest of fluffy material done in time...
> Why my bees didn't do that and let that rodent run them out of their home is beyond me
My guess is, as Dan pointed out, that the rodent did not run them out. The mice and shrews tend to eat bees and pollen over winter and chew up the comb, and sometimes they eat enough bees to kill off a hive, but bees don't leave in winter and mice don't survive moving in before winter.
Maybe the rodent wasn't the reason why the bees are gone. All I know is that they are gone and there was an active rodent nest there. The rodent nest did indeed fit Michael s description, a ball of fluff. There has been a problem with rodent building nest in that hive for months.
The last time I was up there and the hive was active with bees was only a couple weeks before last weekend when they were gone.
When I found them gone last weekend there was no bees (except for the 4 or 5), no dead bees, no brood or larva. There was only empty drawn comb with some pollen and a lot of honey.
It is still winter, barely anyway. I wouldn't think bees would abandon a hive in the winter, but plainly here they have. Why remains a mystery.
Do you all suppose it could be a case of CCD? I honestly have never fully understood what would qualify any case of the loss of a colony as CCD.
The 4 or 5 bees that were there could have been scouts from another colony as Radar mentioned. I would be pleased to find a swarm of bees from another colony had conveniently moved into that hive. I hope it would happen this week because this weekend I am planning to remove that empty hive if it is still empty when I am there until I obtain more bees. I want to save the comb and keep critters out of it.
Several things can happen to a colony going into fall. They could have swarmed leaving few bees to start with. They could have swarmed, left enough bees, but went queenless when the queen did not return from her mating flight and then dwindled. They could have had other issues and dwindled toward fall, such as Varroa mites, brood diseases, a drought, robbing etc. A failure of the fall flow (drought) can leave them with no young bees going into winter. On warm days the ones left keep hauling out the dead but the bees are just too short lived to make it to spring. I would not be too quick to blame it on CCD.
As Michael pointed out there are any number of things that can cause the symptoms you are describing. One thing that caught my attention was the fact that a couple of weeks earlier you saw plenty of activity at the hive. If so, the fact that there wasn't any brood two weeks later might be an important piece of evidence. My bees have been producing brood since early January. I'd expect that yours should have by sometime in Feb. The lack of brood suggests the possibility of a queen failure...either as Michael suggested or some other queen failure. I'm not saying that is what happened....it is just one scenario supported by the evidence.
Ok that could explain why there was no dead bees that lead me to think they had absconded.
The reason that didn't come to my mind was because the few other times I had colonies die they died all at once leaving all of them dead in the hive.
If they died off gradually as in this case, the living bees would have dragged out the dead until there were no more living bees to drag the last of them out. The few remaining dead might have been eaten by the rodent.
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