Photo taken last spring.
That concerned me so I had to investigate further. The first thing I did was to pull out the bottom board that came with my screen bottom. I found about half a dozen dead Small Hive Beetles on it. I was not happy to see that. Next, I removed the cover to the observation window in the bottom hive box.
|Shot through the window so not a good photo.|
Dead bees - definitely not a good sign. I went inside, suited up, and lit my smoker in hopes I'd need it. When I removed the roof and quilt, one lone bee flew up and out the top. Was there life in there? I looked down inside, but except for a few dead bees on the combs, the hive was vacant. Everybody was gone. I disassembled the hive.
|Top box on the right. The comb on the right broke when I removed the box.|
I found comb in the top two boxes, the bottom two were empty. The comb was perfectly aligned with the top bars, and only one was attached to the bars below.
|Broken by yours truly when I removed it from the box.|
There was some capped honey, and while the box was full of comb, quite a bit of it was empty. In the bottom box there was one small patch of capped honey. I found pollen cells, but no brood (which I wouldn't have found in the winter anyway(?)), also two or three more dead Small Hive Beetles.
Here are more photos for clues as to what happened.
|Dead bees with their heads stuck in empty cells is said to be an indication|
of starvation. Of the dozen or so bees, I found only a few like that.
|This was the only capped comb in the bottom hive box.|
| I found evidence of wax moths in about half a dozen|
places, although most of the comb was untouched.
Now I wonder if the bees I saw out last month weren't foraging because they were getting ready to move, even though I never saw them swarm. If they did, it certainly wasn't because they were overcrowded. Was it the wax moths? The Small Hive Beetles? Varroa? And what does all that darkened comb mean? Since I'm still very much a novice beekeeper and this is my first hive, I can only make observations and turn to research and the experience of others to try to make sense of the clues.
As an aside, this comb interested me...
The larger cells would be drone cells, built for hatching drone, which are larger than worker bees. I found them only on this one comb in the lower box. The smaller cells are of particular interest to me, because my bees were raised on standard foundation comb, which is imprinted with the larger cell size. Without that larger cell pattern to follow, they naturally made smaller cells. There is a lot of controversy over cell size because of the claim that smaller cells are not attractive to varroa mites. I am not inclined to be drawn into that conversation, but if you're interested, you'll find it all and then-some at ResistantBees.com.
So, in the time-honored tradition of silver linings and counting my blessings, I can at least be thankful that we will get a little bit of honey to enjoy. I have to say though, that looking out my kitchen and dining room windows and seeing no Honeysuckle Hive makes me very sad indeed.
New bees arrive next Saturday, so at least there is that.