HIVE INSPECTION #2: Good and not so good

May 14, 2010

Doing the hive inspection this time around was much easier than the first. I was so much less nervous so it made for a easy and enjoyable time. BUT... something isn't right with my hive. We just came through a cold snap of about 1 week with lots of rain and wind so I'm not sure if that would have anything to do with it but I believe my queen is dead. Did I kill her in the first inspection somehow? I have no idea.

In the first inspection things looked like they were suppose to look. Lots of brood (eggs and larvae) and one side of a frame even had capped brood. Ok wait, I just realized I couldn't have killed the queen during that inspection because there were 5 frames of capped brood in this inspection. The strange thing is, there were no larvae and from what I could see, no eggs either. I didn't spot the queen and I think she would have been an easy find since it wasn't like "bee overload" in there (it looked similar to last inspection). All capped brood were being fed, bees are brining in pollen, there weren't any queen cells that I noticed but there was a lot of dead bees at the bottom of the hive stuck in what looked like diarrhea. Seriously! It looked like a layer of water with diarrhea scattered about and a bunch of wet dead bees. My queen may be in that bunch, didn't take time to look at it.

I don't know what to do. Should I be ordering a new queen? Do I wait a few days and inspect again? Where did the water come from? I checked the sugar/water feeder which has been in place since Tuesday (I refilled a mason jar that I used the first week the bees were hived and it doesn't leak). The bees were on it eating away when I pulled it off. My inner cover was stuck to my shallow super which I assume was from the bees sealing it up.

I'm sad right now. My gut tells me the queen is dead and all I can say is I feel horrible. What did I do wrong?

UPDATE: I received some advice from more experienced beekeepers. The good thing is, I'm more optimistic than I was about the queen possibly being alive. Not optimistic about the fact that I moved frames around again and possibly put eggs on the edge of the hive body where they will freeze tonight. I've learned that a queen can stop laying due to cold or other issues or should I say "take a break" from laying. The only frames not full of brood are the outside frames and possibly the queen sensed that those were too cold for her babies???? It has been down in the 30's at night and between 40 and 50 during the day recently. I just hope that doesn't mean she will alert the others that it is SWARM time because there isn't any room to expand.

I also talked to Brian, the beekeeper who helped me hive my bees. He advised me to go out and scrape the water and dead bees out of the hive since the water pool was on the side of the bee entrance. I did it but it was quite the production. I got to see what bees are like when their tolerance level is running thin. More of them landing on me and hubby than usual and they buzz quite a bit louder. We happen to kill one bee and I'm feeling really badly about that. I know it comes with the territory but it still doesn't feel right to kill anything. It was a bee with legs full of pollen too :( All I picture is her working really hard to take care of her family and me cutting her life short. The poor girl. If anything does me in as a beekeeper it will be the fact that I'm killing something. Call it my PETA syndrome. GAWD I HATE PETA!!!!

UPDATE #2: Just read, if there isn't enough hatched brood in the hive to cover the frames than the queen may take a break from laying as there aren't enough bees to feed and keep the brood warm. Sounds logical to me. Another thing to keep in mind if I do find my queen is alive.
Sam Smith said...

A possible source for the water is condensation, I lost several hives last winter to this, if its really cold and your colony isn't big enough to cover all the brood one thing you can do is cut some pieces of cardboard and close the bees off from both sides making the hive smaller.

Jim said...

Michelle, I can't tell from your photos if your hives are slanted or not. If not, the rain you've had could have gotten into the floor of the bottom board. Bees die daily, but if they fall into water it would be harder for the workers to clear them out and they would soon turn into mush like you describe. My guess is they're fine and a few warm days will really pep them up.

alittlebitofeach said...

I'm in the same boat. I checked in on Thursday and no eggs or larva. We also had a cold week prior, and there arn't too many bees in the hive to cover brood. I'm looking again on Monday. I'm also a bit confused because there where 2 bars of drone brood in worker cells and it seems a bit early for them to be wasteing their energy on drones. Only time will tell I guess.

Michelle said...

Thanks for the tip Sam! I noticed that the bees were avoiding the outside frames. When I inspected they were only filling out those 5 center frames and maybe one or two bees were on the outer frames, probably for because of the cold like you said.

Jim, I never noticed the hive being slanted before but we went out to look at it and it definitely is slanted back with the hive opening up higher than the back. We scraped out the dead bees and water and hubby tried to elevate the back a little but it needs much more elevating. We are trying to figure out a good way to accomplish this. We are going to try little wooden blocks next. I'm hoping the days stay warm for a while so it dries out completely and we have an opportunity to fiddle with it to get it to a point that it doesn't drown the bees again.