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Author Topic: Need help strengthening a very weak hive..  (Read 516 times)
KatBee
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Location: Vancouver Island,BC


« on: July 05, 2013, 05:08:29 PM »

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.
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Steel Tiger
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Location: Southern New Hampshire


« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2013, 06:41:05 PM »

The dying bees could be the winter bees meeting their fate. You said you have capped brood, is it drone or workers? If it's workers, you'll soon have a mini population spike that'll give more bees to care for more young.
One of my hives, which were started with nucs this year, was very slow to build up. Now it's 4 boxes high and getting stronger every week.
 The funny flight patterns could be orientation flights.
 Keep an eye on the pollen patty, it could attract unwanted pest.
You may want to get a close up look and check for mites.

 Those are my thoughts, I'm sure others will add more
 Good Luck
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KatBee
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Location: Vancouver Island,BC


« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2013, 06:50:02 PM »

We have all stages of brood and it's definitely workers, so I suppose you're right. I immediately worried about the brood existing with literally next to no food stores- but then, I guess, if we keep bringing the food to them to make it easier and they can keep the brood alive that should be a cycle starting to resolve itself. Right now perhaps they just don't have enough of a population to forage AND nurse? 

And they're not winter bees, it was definitely starvation and I check for mites everytime we go in (yesterday being the most recent) they're healthy in that regard, but thanks for suggesting it!
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JWChesnut
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Location: Coastal Central California


« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2013, 08:26:50 PM »

Worker brood requires 22 days to hatch.  You are just seeing the first of your new cohort.  If you have lots of brood in all stages of development your hive is about to increase in size. One frame of brood will produce three frames of bees.

A hovering up and down flight is an orientation flight from a new worker. A robbing bee will land and dart into the hive avoiding touching antenna's with the guards.  Robbers are caught and dragged out by a rear leg.

If robbing is just tentative, reduce the entrance to a minimum hole (and your small hive really only needs a passage for two bees at a time).  If robbing is well established, I find the best solution is to move the hive as the robbers are trained to the location, in the new location shrink the entrance to the minimum.  You may not be seeing robbing at all.  Limited stores are typical of hives in the build-up phase -- all resources are going into brood, and not making honey.

I have never tried the "trap the robbers inside for 3 days" trick.  My intuition is this requires an accomplished, observant and veteran keep to pull off without making the situation worse.

If folks around you are keeping bees, there is no reason to presume you cannot as well.  The starve out on your nuc was likely due to bees un-oriented to their new location, and not intrinsic to the long-term suitability of the yard.

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sc-bee
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Location: Edgefield, SC


« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2013, 11:55:23 PM »

>Most of the comb seems to be brood, we didn't see the queen
Sounds like your nuc is about to take off. And the dioriented bees were most likely new bees orienting as said above. I would not give up on the location make contact with other beekeepers and learn the timing of your flows/blooms. You just might be in a bad time period right now. Hang in there and smile  grin
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John 3:16
Just5398
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Location: NJ


« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2013, 10:09:05 AM »

Keep feeding.  And if your neighbor is keeping bees go have a chat with them.  They may have lots of good tips to offer and what a great ice breaker if you haven't met them yet! 
Good luck!
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Sally
Finski
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Location: Finland


« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2013, 12:15:34 PM »

.
It may be main flow in nature even in Ontario. Keep feeding that they cannot mix nectar to your sugar store.
Put them swarm!
.
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.
Language barrier NOT included
sc-bee
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Location: Edgefield, SC


« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2013, 12:36:51 PM »

.
It may be main flow in nature even in Ontario. Keep feeding that they cannot mix nectar to your sugar store.
Put them swarm!
.

As said in his signature, "Language barrier included."  grin
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John 3:16
KatBee
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Location: Vancouver Island,BC


« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2013, 06:06:26 PM »

Thanks, everyone! I will keep my fingers crossed that all of that brood hatches in the next few weeks and bolsters the numbers back up.. and up.. and up.

I appreciate all of the feedback- I'm really glad to have found this place.
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