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Are my bees starting to starve?

Hi All,

I’ve been inspecting pretty consistently since August, and while the honey initially definitely increased following (and even somewhat over) winter, yesterday when I inspected it looks like the honey stored in the super has gone down significantly. There wasn’t a huge amount to start with (maybe a full frame’s worth of capped honey, spread over several frames), but on top of that, it looks like the stores of honey in the brood box are gone too.

My hive otherwise looks pretty healthy, lots and lots of bees all over the brood box and the flow frames. The only thing that seemed different was that maybe there is less brood than before, but it could just be all the missing honey that used to be in the brood box that makes me think that.

Can I trust that the bees will be able to regulate their population appropriately so as to not starve at this time of year? I mean, it’s spring. There are plenty of blooms around (especially silky oak and jacaranda), but of course it is also very very dry and warm at the moment, and I guess it would be reasonable to think that means there is less nectar around than there would be normally at this time of year. The weather is also being weird - very hot and dry for a week or two, then suddenly it gets really cold again for a few days.

At what point should I start to worry and do something about this? I’m hesitant to feed with a super on; I don’t want syrup honey.

I also think I may have injured my queen during the inspection (I missed her during the inspection and very luckily found her at the end, struggling, and covered in crusher dust on a garden step), so I’ll have to open up in a few days anyway to make sure she is still ok/laying. Will probably take a better inventory of honey then as yesterday I didn’t have enough time to inspect all of the frames thoroughly so maybe there was more honey hiding in there than I thought.

Any thoughts/advice welcomed

Thanks again! :slight_smile:

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Your in the South East but knowing where could be a help in advising you. Coolum Beach is in the South East as is Beaudesert but it has a totally different climate to mine.
The bees will move honey about in the hive as they want it close to the brood area so the first to ‘disappear’ will be from the super, but it hasn’t disappeared, it just been moved.
With Silky Oak and Jacaranda in flower I think if you do a good check the bees will have stores, both honey and pollen,especially if you have had any rain in the past month.
Don;t worry about the temperatures about now, the bees will be happy as it is but just make sure they have water available for them.

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An afterthought, during an inspection and you are down to the QX treat everything, including the QX as a possible to have the queen on it, take care of her.

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Thanks @Peter48 that’s comforting :slight_smile:
I am in the Gold Coast Hinterland (elev. about 500m AHD). It should normally just be warming up about now I think, but instead we’ve been getting these hot winds come through since the start of September (when the fires/fire weather started getting bad). We’ve had little rain generally but got about 20mm on the weekend. It’s just little and far between. I see a lot of heat-stressed and dying/dead trees about so it’s definitely much much drier now than is normal. I set up a bee feeder a month or so ago but I never see the bees there so not sure if they’ve discovered it yet. There is also a decent sized creek in a gorge at the back of our property that is perennial so worst case they always have water within about 300m if desperate.
Anyway will have a more thorough check on the weekend and make a better note of what’s there.


Let me know how you find it after the inspection, i;m thinking it will be a lot better than you are thinking once you do a through inspection. Remember un-capped nectar is still food supplies.
I have a brother at Carrarra and happy to call by when I’m visiting him if you like. My normal fee is a big cup of coffee when it is done.:smile::smile:

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Hi Wynnie, don’t be put off feeding bees just because you don’t want sugar syrup honey. If the bees need it, they’ll use every drop well before they start storing proper honey. When you see that start to happen, no doubt you’ll cease feeding.

I think it’s a no brainer to feed bees as opposed to letting them starve.

Good luck with your next inspection.

When this forum first started, people were spruiking the idea of holding brood frames above the brood box while doing inspections, with the idea that if the queen fell, she’d fall into the brood box instead of the ground. I’ve taken notice since & I try to hold the brood frame over the brood.


Ok so, there was more honey in the super than I thought, but definitely less than there was a month or so ago. Around 1-1.5 frames but mostly uncapped. And a bit here and there in the brood but again mostly uncapped and definitely less than before.

I now have a more pressing issue which is that I think my queen has died from the last inspection. I couldn’t find her (not unusual, I usually have trouble) but I also couldn’t find eggs (very unusual I almost always easily find eggs) and I found a bunch of (around 10-12) queen cups with larvae/royal jelly.

I think they are emergency cells, mostly because about half at least I know for sure weren’t there on Wednesday. About 8 are along the top of two different frames and then there are 2-4 scattered around the place rather randomly. I did previously have some existing queen cups that have been there for some time and these don’t have anything in them still.

The larvae inside to me look like they range from about 1-5 days old. Since it was four days ago since she was alive/laying, I guess this would be consistent with the bees ‘catching’ both newly laid eggs up to larvae that was about 1 day old.

So if I get my bee math right it will be another 8-10 days before the oldest of these start to emerge?

What is the best course of management now? To wait until a new queen should be laying and then open up and make sure she is? I’ve just read it can take up to 3 weeks from when she hatches to when she starts laying, is this too risky, in case the requeening fails? Them I’m a month without any eggs being laid and still no queen :confused:

At the same time I’d rather let them do their thing naturally and not intervene too much.

So much for thinking I might be able to finally harvest some honey this year :woman_facepalming:

Thanks @JeffH, yes I usually hold the frames above the box when inspecting. My problem was that it was a bit late in the afternoon before I got the opportunity to inspect and I had to move to get some sun into the cells to properly find eggs. I think in future I will not inspect if I can’t get some sun on the frames where the hive is, not really worth the risk of the drama I now have to deal with :confused:

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Less honey, missing queen, queen cells in the hive… I bet they swarmed on you! Don’t worry, they often sneak in a swarm when we aren’t looking. :blush:

However, I would do regular inspections now to make sure that they aren’t planning another swarm…

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Your bees are not starving if there is still some honey in the super and with the increase of time into Spring there will be more with the bees to forage on. Jacaranda will flower for a month and produce a good amount of pollen and nectar as an example.
If you have killed the queen I would allow the colony to make a new queen naturally. With queen cells with larvae in them it sounds very much that the queen has been rolled. They will find eggs and larvae up to 3 days old to select a new queen.
When I’m down into the brood I take the outside frame out first, the queen is least likely to be on that frame, then as you take each frame before you lift it move it sideways into the open space then lift it out and there is much less risk of rolling the queen. Most hive have ‘play queen cups’ but when a queen dies they are as likely to make new cups to produce a queen.
This chart might help you work out the time frame. If the queen doesn’t return from her mating flight then you could consider buying a queen or ‘begging’ a local bee keeper to sell you a frame of eggs and the nurse bees on the frame and that will be readily accepted by the colony.
There is still plenty of time for the colony to produce enough honey, they will continue to forage without a queen in the hive.
I would let the bees sort it out and leave them without disturbing them till it is time to check for a laying queen and brood.Cheers

Thanks @Peter48
I think the oldest larvae they caught was 1 day old, which is about 5 days old now (it was 4 days ago that I killed/injured her), which I think would mean the oldest of the queen cups will hatch in about 8 days. I’ve just read somewhere else a minimum of 5 days for the queen to mate and start laying. I guess I’ll leave it 14-19 days to open and hope I either find her or eggs.

Thank you for the chart, it’s helpful.

This is what I do normally too, but I think either she was on this first frame or she fell from another when I was moving about trying to catch the sun.

Appreciate the offer, would be happy to host you. Regardless of whether the current issue has resolved I’m sure there is much I could learn. :slight_smile:

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Thanks @Dawn_SD

I’m fairly confident they are emergency cells as only 4 days I was in there and none of the queen cups that now have larvae in them existed (only queen cups which are now still empty). So they must have taken eggs and larvae that were already laid. My understanding is that swarm cells are made prior to the queen laying in them? As with supercedure cells. I’m still learning, so happy to be corrected.
On top of this I also feared my queen was about to die because I found her covered in dust, moving very slowly and not looking too good.

That should be true for all of us! :blush: Here is a detailed article on queen cells, just in case you haven’t seen it. It is excellent, but quite large, so it may take a minute to download:

Thanks! It just so happens I already had this open in another tab :laughing:

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