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Hi, first-year beekeeper here, in Marin County, CA. I have a single Langstroth hive that I started in late April with a package... it has 1 deep and 3 mediums on it now. Before leaving on vacation 2 weeks ago, the hive was going gangbusters-- honey being stored in top box, 2nd box down was brood comb being backfilled with honey, third box down was brood, and I admit I did not look in the deep since they seemed happy and busy.

Checked again today and found mostly-capped honey in the top 2 supers, and basically just empty brood comb with a little honey in the bottom two. The deep is literally all empty comb with nothing in it. There is a smattering of capped brood on some of the other frames in the mediums, but nothing significant. I saw a total of 3 uncapped larvae and no eggs. No queen seen, though I suppose it's possible I missed her. The amount of bees appears to be less than the package I put in in late April. This is a HUGE reduction from what I was seeing all summer.

I did not treat for Varroa this year, since I was waiting to hopefully collect a few frames of honey and was planning to do so around now. Maybe this was my mistake? I don't see a ton of dead bees around, though I did see a handful of bees with deformed-looking wings on my patio before vacation as well as a few that appeared to have had their abdomens severed from their head and wings! Poor girls. But there were maybe only 10 of these that I saw, and they were not by the hive, so who knows if they were even my bees?

Questions:

1. Any ideas what happened? Hive basically has capped honey, some uncapped nectar & pollen, some bees, and no brood/queen.
2. Is it worth trying to re-queen a hive like this in early November?
3. Would you keep the comb for next year's new package, or destroy it in case of disease?

Thanks for all of your help! First year, and I'm pretty bummed I could not help this hive be successful at least until "winter" here in Marin.
 

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I have suspicion of what happened -- the queen died or lost fecundity from infection with a virus. Nosema also hits hives exactly like you describe that are weakened.

Going forward, remove the empty deep and one of the honey supers. Repack a single medium with the brood that is present and 4 capped frames on the outside. If the hive is as you describe all the bees should fit easily in that single box. There is no point in having a big mostly empty hive, the remaining bees will develop chalkbrood in the larvae and continue to dwindle.

Feed with sub. If the queen is competent, the sub will get her laying.

In mid-December, Euc, Red Alder, Arroyo Willow and German Ivy will bloom, and the sub can be discontinued (or not). If the hive is going in December, you can add back the preconfigured second box (center is open comb, outside is honey stores).

I would not try to requeen in November. That means a Kona Queen --- and shipping will push the 1x price to $60. Save the $60 and wait for spring nucs.

August is the golden month to treat for Varroa. You want the bees in September (wild buckwheat) and October (Red Euc) too have maximum health. A queen that fails in October is hardly ever successfully superceded. Take your honey off in late June or July. Treat the first to 15th of August, unless they are making Toyon or Star Thistle. The key on the California coast is to enter the fall with bees that are healthy as you can encourage them to achieve.

Unless coastal Marin is radically different than SLO County, you make your honey crop in the Spring (from Euc and Sage). The summer honey is for the bees (unless you are on Toyon or one of the inland hayfield weeds). The rest of the country doesn't get going until May, but in May the coastal hives have topped out and are slowing down. The classic yearly schedule needs to be adjusted for our climate.
 

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Thank you, JW! Please forgive my ignorance but what is this "sub" that you recommend feeding? I agree with taking honey earlier--I just didn't really get any until late in the season, I think because I started my bees so late.

Your idea is to consolidate is a good one, and I'll do it tomorrow. It also gives me a reason to ditch the single deep I have and go all mediums!

Many thanks.
 

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Sub is "Pollen Supplement". It is soft patties of pollen/soyflour/brewers yeast sweetened with sugar. It is a substitute protein source that will stimulate brood production.

There are nothing wrong with deep boxes. There is a lot very right with deep boxes. The bees don't care (a whole lot). You will want a second hive, and most Nucs come in deeps.
 

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I bought my first supplement very recently. I got MegaBee from Dadant, and my bees really take it well. There are other brands, and I'm sure they are fine too, but I've had experience with this one and wanted to pass that on.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Just a quick note to say that I went in and reduced the size of my hive today. As it turns out, after the initial shock of seeing less bees wore off, I found more capped brood than I originally thought there was. Enough to leave two mediums on with 4 frames of honey in each. AND, more importantly, I saw my queen! So she is alive, thankfully. I still am going to feed pollen when it arrives tomorrow, and I'm a bit skeptical that I'll have enough bees to get through the winter, but at least we have a chance now. She is alive! Thanks so much for your advice. I'm glad I went in an took off the empty deep and gave them less space.
 
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