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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I had a problem with my hives this past year, that completely baffles me. Here are some findings for your evaluation.

Mid-season inspection was done the 2nd weekend in June, at that time I observed that most of the hives (4 of 5) where bustling, bees boiled out of the top super (3 medium body + 1 super) when the inner cover was removed. No visible problem with SHB, mites or moths. Spring mite treatment was powder sugar with drop averages around 5 - 10 per hive per 24 hour done in Mid-May.

I built some boxes and assembled some frames during the next couple weeks. I went back over July 4th weekend, and was greated with this surprise.

ALL hives were totally empty, No bees (dead or alive), no honey, pollen or brood. Only the wax was left behind.

The frames were branded and not bothered that I can tell. The only thing I did was treat some weeds in the area with Roundup. I had seen on here that it was a safe product around the bees though.

Now after all this, does anyone have any ideas?

I was going to sell everything, but you know once stung :D

Pleas help me insure that whatever I did isn't repeated.
 

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During your mid season inspection did you check to see what they had for stores and brood. It could be possible they had already absconded and what you saw was robber bees taking what they left behind. Robber bees will "boil" out the top when the lid is removed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Actually, Yes, I did check for brood and finding that didn't bother to look for a queen. All hives (except the one weak one) had stores in the brood area as well as at least half a super.
 

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I wish I had an answer for you. Going in 2+ wks from brood and stores to absolutely nothing left in the hive and no bees dead or alive is odd. I do firmly believe that the roundup didn't cause it.
 

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Do you have fire ants in your area? I've seen strong fire ant colonies do damage like that. After they've done their dirty work, driving out the bees, it only takes them a few hours to eat the brood, they could have been working on the brood while bees were robbing out the honey.
 

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I also believe that roundup had nothing to do with it, I use roundup around my hives all summer long with no problems. I do recomend using close to dark or at night when the bees are not flying. I also agree with Joel on his assessment, no stores or pollen, possible they hit a dearth and left. This happened to us this summer, hives boiling over with bees with lots of stores, a few weeks later, hives were empty of stores.... we caught it in time and saved them but it was a close call.. they went through the stores very quickly.
 

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Have you ever used that sprayer for anything other than round-up?
Are you SURE you mixed the solution correctly?
Could someone else in the area (farmer, etc.) have sprayed their crops with something that killed your bees?

Were there bees top to bottom or were they "boiling out of the top super" because that was where the last of their food was?

Along those lines... You said, "All hives (except the one weak one) had stores in the brood area as well as at least half a super." Do you mean they had three mediums full of brood and stores and half a super of honey? When you say "brood area" what do you mean?

Were the hives opened/spread out for a long time while you were inspecting? Could a robbing spree have started then?

Weird. A little scary. Glad to hear you're not giving up. Get more yards. Eggs in different baskets and all that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Trying to remember the questions, I'll try to answer.

Also it should be mentioned that this was 2 locations seperated by 50+ miles. 2 hive at the house 3 on a farm.

As to Fire Ants ... YES Loads of them, at both locations...the tiny red ones.

Dearth is possible but would they take everything with them

When I checked there was a lot of bees in the brood area (I used a 3 medium, 8 frame + super setup) along with the ones chasing me.

No Cotton that I know of, not closeby anyway.

I opened the lid, and the middle brood box, when I found brood and stores in that box, I close the hive back up. Total open time +/- 5 minutes.

New sprayer never use for anything else.

The one weak hive was a split that wasn't building up as well as I had hoped.

I hope this helps, thanks to all who responded. I have 2 nuks on order, guess I'll try one more time. At $100 per nuk, I have lost over a grand in the last 2 years, wife is not really happy at this point.
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Fire ants seem to me, also, to be a likely culprit, especially if your comb stays relatively unaffected by wax moth or SHB. I have had colonies killed by fire ants and then left the comb for months with no damage to it as the fire ants kept all the insect pests under control.
Fire ants are worse during periods of drought, and worse during the hottest part of the summer, in my experience.
 

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There are various methods used to restrain ants from causing problems for the bees. Since you're in the heart of the fire ant's adopted territory, you are probably already aware of some of the ways that can be used to help control them.

I believe a search of this forum will show how other beekeepers have been able to control the fire ant.

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Fire ants are even sometimes a problem for my bees here in Tucson, Arizona. I keep a few varieties of bamboo and raise fishing worms in the heavy mulch I use on the bamboo - I feed the worms our kitchen scraps and any leftovers that get too old. The fire ants bother my worms and eat some of their food, I believe this helps keep their attention away from the bees. The worms aren't as much of a challenge to the ants as the bees are. But if I ever stop feeding the worms, I would keep a closer eye on the beehives to make sure the ant's weren't giving them their attention.
 

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I hope this helps, thanks to all who responded. I have 2 nuks on order, guess I'll try one more time. At $100 per nuk, I have lost over a grand in the last 2 years, wife is not really happy at this point.
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If you want to save money you need more bees, not less. :lpf: Seriously though. When you have die offs you won't have to buy bees for replacements, you can "make" them. Also, why not order queens and make up nucs with your bees? Or buy one nuc and feed the snot out of them to split again mid season. You won't build quite as quickly but you'll save lots of money. You can buy 4 or 5 good queens for that 100 bucks.
 

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Man, if my wife of 41 years knew how much I've been pouring into the bees the last 4 years she'd collect my life insurance and no jury would convict her! Hopefully this year the expansion will start paying off, and I can start sleeping with both eyes closed again. :lpf:
 

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Causes of absconding that I have observed:
1. No honey/pollen--we had a severe nectar dearth in north ga in may and june due to too much rain.
2. hive beetles--whether there is little honey in the hive or not (was there any sign of beetle dung on the bottom boards?)
3. tracheal mites
4. Heat
5. No reason at all

I'd bet that you faced at least a nectar dearth and drought. Having every hive abscond in the same timeframe is highly unusual.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Not saying I had a lot of fire ants, but you had to wear gloves to work the bees and bee stings wasn't the reason. Them buggers would eat you up while you were looking for the queen. I kept asking if they were a problem and kept being told that the bees would handle them. I had to wear hightop boots and tape the pant legs to keep them out. I carried RAID and when I got to the road, I sprayed me and the truck so I could drive home comfortably. This is why I use roundup so heavy, to keep the grasses down around the hives. I used the oil can, salt, Diamethetric earth, and anything else I heard of (non-chemical) to control them.

The fire ants and roundup are the only things these two sites shared. The extention agent here told me it wasn't ants because they wouldn't take the honey, "they don't like sweets".
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