We kept a hive with the help of a friend in Ontario for a couple of years and so, upon our move to Vancouver Island we bought a nuc, not realizing how steep the new-location-learning-curve would be. We got the nuc the first week of June and about three weeks later upon doing our every-other-day (hands off) observation of it noticed bees dying off in huge numbers. We'd asked the guy who sold it to us if we needed to feed it and he insisted no, so starvation in the spring/early summer didn't cross our (naive, newbee) minds. In hindsight, we should have known, but where we had kept bees before starvation is simply not a warm season issue, so when the same guy we bought it from suggested poisoning as the cause of the die-off, we took his word and were afraid to feed lest it somehow spread the "poison" amongst the rest of the hive. The next day I did my research and smartened up and we started feeding, but by then, we'd lost a very good percentage of the nuc. I'd estimate that we have somewhere between 1/4 or 1/5 of it left.
It is now three weeks later and we've been feeding sugar water since, but went through the hive yesterday and they don't seem to be faring much better. Most of the comb seems to be brood, we didn't see the queen, but there are eggs, so someone is laying in there. We thought we might have been seeing robbing yesterday before we went through the hive (not a lot of bees going in with pollen, lots of strange flight patterns out front), but we don't know- I suppose they could have been new bees and they could all live there and just still be having a difficult time finding food to bring back. We bought a pollen patty, reduced the entrance, and filled the feeder planning to seal them up and move the hive (I'd read that if it is robbing to seal it up watered, fed, and ventilated for three days so the robbers lose interest, if this is the case), but the more I think about it the less I'm sure it needs to be moved.
I guess what I really want to know is how to strengthen this hive so it lives through the winter. We have limited resources ($), so it really needs to be through feeding instead of buying a new nuc/hive to combine it with. We were feeding 1:1, but at forum members' suggestions switched to something closer to 2:1. The first pollen patty we've ever bought is in there now. Can someone tell me what the optimal nutrition is? I've read that you can feed certain ratios to stimulate brood production- is this true? Would this work in such a weak hive? I'd like to strengthen them back up then find a place other than our acreage to keep them- there just doesn't seem to be enough around for them out here- I think they'd fare better in suburbs with flower gardens- which surprises me, because our neighbours not too far off keep bees, but they must just be lucky with the plant-placement- that or their hive is empty..
Any advice is much appreciated.