Last night I took a friend to see my hive. As we approached it, I immediately got concerned. Lots of bees were down roaming around on the gravel with seemingly no purpose. I hadn’t seen this behavior before, but had heard others describe similar “Zombees.” We watched them for a moment and then opened the observation window. Another surprise: the population seemed low. It was nearly 7pm, and by then, the bees are normally back in from foraging. To make matters worse, I could see several small hive beetles inside.
I went back this morning to do a full inspection and there was even more disappointment. I couldn’t find the queen anywhere. There was a lot of drone brood. There was some larvae, but the capped brood seemed low. Also, there was an empty queen cell.
My theory is that the queen and about half the bees swarmed due to heat. I’ve been concerned about this for several weeks as the weather got hotter. We’d seen a some bearding, and so we added several top bars in order to give more room and ventilation. I was out of town for about a week and hadn’t been able to check on the bees as often as I normally do. I had planned on trying to add ventilation and shade, but just hand’t had a chance yet. I see now that my lack of attention probably caused this to happen. And that’s frustrating for a lot of different reasons. Things were going so up until now.
I don’t know exactly what to expect from this point forward. Is the newly hatched queen still alive? Is the drone brood being grown to mate with the new queen? Is a worker bee laying eggs now? Is the colony doomed? I’m fearing the worst, of course.
I’m trying to remind myself that we are new at this. We’re disappointed, but here is what I think we’ve learned:
- A screen board bottom is better in a place where the temperature is regularly in the mid 90s. We have a solid bottom board. This would help with ventilation and hive beetles.
- Keeping the bees in a shaded area during the summer months would be beneficial.
- Having a natural hive beetle trap in the hive would help control the beetles.
Any other thoughts or suggestions? I welcome your help.
I found a good write up on swarming, and it addresses heat swarming. It’s worth a read.