Thought everything was going great - now I'm baffled...
First hive, first year, so bear with me.
Hive was going great mid summer - filled two deep hive bodies with brood and honey by mid July. So, amazed that I was going to get honey the first year, I put on an excluder and a shallow super. A couple weeks later the flow stopped dead. I ended up pulling just a couple shallow frames towards the end of August. (Great honey!)
Use of an excluder is a good way to get them to stop. When you add a super let them begin working it first 2-3 frames well along, then add the excluder. The books never tell you this.
Figured I'd go in for a full inspection this weekend, it had been a couple months since I had been in the hive bodies.
The top body had very little honey in it, the bees had even started chewing a good deal of the wax off the frames. This body was _packed_ just two months ago. I went into the bottom body and it was almost empty. Just clean empty frames.
Dearth, the lack of forage (nectar), the bees can't bring in enough to sustain the hive so they use what stores they have. The queen stops laying and many newbeesks think the hive has gone quennless.
There was brood, capped and larva in the top body (couldn't see any eggs, but don't trust me to find them anyhow!) but next to nothing in the bottom.
When the stores run out the bees begin eating the brood, first the eggs, then the larvae, followed by the pupae. The longer the dearth the more devestating. If the hives dies you'll find all kinds of dead bees, and what brood remains will be cacooned pupae with holes in the caps (the bees checked to see if they were still edible (white). You'll also find losts of bees head down in cells, they died looking for something to eat.
Sorry for the long story - my question is - do I start feeding the bees before the winter? I'm in northern California and it's been a long hot and dry summer. Looking at the hive now - I'm sure I shouldn't have supered and taken what I did.
There's a reason for waiting to harvest, the loss of 2 frames isn't much but it can be a hive breaker when a dearth hits. Supering had nothing to do with the onset of the dearth. The queen excluder, however, is a great inhibitor and didn't help.
Also - should I remove the super that's on top so they can focus on filling the hive bodies with feed?
Feed immediately,if it's not too late already, and keep feeding until you have 2 boxes full of capped stores. If you have a northern tier type winter you'll want to feed until even the brood chamber is 80% backfilled. Feed either 1.5:1 or 5:3 sugar syrup, both are still thin enough to allow the bees to make wax, if needed, and when ripen quicker than 1:1. Remove the super, it is just in the way and the bees won't work it again this year.