Monday, October 7, 2013

Airway Robbery!

As soon as I realized my bees had consumed what little honey they had stored in early summer, I started feeding them. I received excellent advice on the matter and bought two styrofoam top feeders, and filled them with thick sugar syrup laced with Honey B Healthy. So far so good. Except one of the hives in particular went through the syrup ridiculously fast. A gallon in a day? And a lot of casualties in the basin of the feeder, which I attributed to the fact that it had run empty except for a sugar crust in the bottom.

So many casualties that a slotted spoon seemed the best option for undertaking...
Also, always a frenzy in the 'access chamber' part of the feeder. Totally congested. I thought the bees were just hungry! Until yesterday, when I noticed, partway inspired by the great bee movie "More Than Honey" that I had some bees in and around the hive that didn't look like mine at all! My bees have a yellow belly that looks a little like a translucent lantern to me. These bees were black and a little skinnier than mine.

Slowly it dawned on me that I was being robbed! I thought the top entrance was covered by the way the feeder fit into the outer cover, but that wasn't tight enough. As soon as I closed that up more, the syrup consumption went way down.

A day later, a friend came over to help me assess things. We found some honey, so at least some of the syrup has stayed in my own hives. We did not see eggs or a queen in either hive. We didn't search exhaustively, but I wish we'd seen evidence of queen-presence. In the 'good' hive, we found several recently used queen cells. It worries me that the hive might be attempting to supersede yet again (why??) because there probably aren't many drones around anymore, for mating! I am hoping that at least the warm weather will continue for a bit, if that helps them to sort out their situation. Doesn't seem like I can do much else at this point but keep feeding them and hoping for the best. Send me some happy, warm and fuzzy royal bee vibes, if you have some to spare!
occupied queen cell
used and empty queen cells
Another check and syrup top-off three days later showed much calmer bees, more reasonable honey consumption and almost no new casualties. I am learning, learning, learning. This has been a dramatic year for me, having encountered all sorts of non-normal situations in a single season!

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