We have 3 hives. Two established and one not set up yet. One of the hives absconded. We went to harvest the honey and there was none. Lots of wax. This is the second time we had a hive swarm and leave. What are we doing wrong? We have one hive still doing well but I’m worried we will lose this one too. We are new at this. Only been trying for a couple of years. So far we have gotten no honey. Any help or advice would be appreciated.
Hi Sharon. Can you share a photo of your hives so we can see what you see. Also, it would be helpful to understand what actions you’ve taken in the last two months up to this point to review if there is something that has contributed to abscondment. What treatments have you done on the bees? How old was your queen? How many boxes (single deep?) were on the hive? Describe the area you are in (farmland, urban setting, near pesticides…). Did you paint the inside of the box, what did you paint the outside of it with? When you say there is plenty of wax what do you mean-- in foundation less frames in the brood box? Have you done any mite counts? Again, pictures are very helpful.
There are a lot of possibilities of why they would leave but more information is needed.
Hive beetles can be a factor in a colony absconding. That’s one possibility. You’ll need to post us some photos of what you found.
When you say “we went to harvest the honey & there was none” kind of indicates that you weren’t really monitoring the progress of the hive before attempting to harvest.
Welcome to the forum Sharon where you will find lots of reading and get some great advice from members like @Tim_Purdie and @JeffH available.
Bees don’t abscond from a hive without a reason and the reason can vary a lot. After having bees for three years and not have any honey being taken off is strange. How often have you been doing full inspections in good weather? A lack of nectar in your area and the hive running out of stores could cause absconding, but there is lots of possibles. A few photos might help us seeing something that your not seeing. Is your hive configuration the same as other bee keepers in your area? How long had the colony been in that hive?
We had no idea how to start this. We have two good friends that are beekeepers one of which set up our hives and got us started. Unfortunately when we started having problems he was “too busy” to help us. Our instructions in the fall were to leave them alone and don’t take any honey so they have food for the winter. That’s what we did. In the spring both hives were very active. Being in Arkansas we had daffodils and other flowers blooming in March.
I will take some pictures and send them to you. Both Jeff and Tim asked a lot of questions I can’t answer until my husband can hear the questions. We did not monitor the progress of the hive because our “expert” said to leave them along.
I couldn’t believe what I saw and heard when they swarmed. There were so many I could hear them from the house and the hives are a fair distance from the house. I walked out there and they air was just full of bees. Later I could not hear them so I walked out there again and they were in a mass in a nearby persimmon tree. We are 70 years old so climbing a tree is not for us. A few hours later they were gone. When we opened the hive there were some bugs that looked to me like roaches.
This was supposed to be my husband’s project since he is disabled. I’m trying to help him succeed by getting more involved.
Thanks for the additional information Sharon.
While it is normal to not inspect the hives during the winter cold months, being an active beekeeper requires regular inspection intervals during spring-summer-fall seasons; that is typically about 1x every 2 weeks but may be a bit more in periods where you are monitoring for specific issues. If you let too much time lapse you can’t intervene to correct things. In this case you have had either a swarm (if there are bees left in the hive) or a complete abscondment (no bees left). If it is a swarm, this is what bees do if you don’t give them space in the brood box. If it is abscondment I am inclined to think you had a pest problem that they decided to get away from. To help understand what pest that might be, you mentioned roaychlike bug, can you describe more about that? The typical two bugs that are an issue in beehives are Varroa Destructor mites (thats the raging problem in many hives these days) or hive beetles. You can do a google search on either to find pictures of what they look like to compare with what you saw and see if either of those or both are what you observed, or something different.
I went out and took some pictures. I found one of the bugs that we had seen in the empty hive alive so I caught him and took pictures. This hive was a total abscondment. There are no bees left at all. I did not see either if the bugs you mentioned in your email. Here are the picture I took. The forum will only let me send one picture so here is the bug.
Definitely not a varroa mite or a hive beetle. I live in Canada and don’t have cockroaches so I can’t be certain, but a little google searching makes me thing that is a cockroach. I’ve never heard of them going into beehives, and if they are in there that is not good as it indicates the bees had something wrong or they would have chased them out. Next picture would be great of the actual frame of wax/hive so we can see inside to get an idea of things.
Definitely a roach. We get them in our hive roof all the time. Hate them and I am very allergic to their droppings, but they don’t hurt bees.
You got good advice in leaving honey in the hive in your fall so the bees had supplies over Winter but ‘leave them alone’ was really bad advice.
Weather permitting I at least lift the roof and check how things are in the hive every two to three weeks and once a month check the brood frames. A lot can happen over that time in a bee hive and doing inspections can give you a warning and enough time to fix an issue before it become a catastrophe.
Definitely a cock roach and I would be a bit concerned about them laying eggs in the hive and an on going problem for some time.
As you still have an active hive I would look for a chap at your local bee group that can take a split off the strong hive in the Spring and restock the dead hive and get it active again.
It is sad that some bee keepers are experts till you have a problem then suddenly they are too busy to help.
Thanks for your input. I didn’t know if they would cause the bees to leave or not. This was the second time we have had a hive abandoned and we haven’t been doing this very long.
Yes it is very sad. We don’t know how to fix things so instead of helping us and fixing the problem so the bees are happy, he just does his own thing. We called him when the bees all swarmed in the persimmon tree next to the hive but he said he couldn’t come out and capture them. He said don’t worry about it that he would capture us a new swarm. I texted him after the bees left and told him we got no honey but he never answered me. We don’t have a local bee group. In fact there is a guy about 2 miles away from us that has a big commercial grade bee operation. We live out of town in the hills of rural Arkansas but this guy warned us not to start a bee hive because it would interfere with his operation. I don’t think he would be open to giving us any advice.
Thanks for your help.
Roaches would not cause the bees to swarm/absocnd. Overcrowding would, so would an older queen. From about late February, you need to inspect your hive every 1-2 weeks for queen cells. If you don’t, a lot of hives will make preparations to swarm at the start of the season. You need to keep inspecting every week or two until about July. That way you prevent losses from swarming.
The other major cause of hive loss over winter in the USA is Varroa infestation. You need to check and treat for this very carefully. If you haven’t done that, that would be a very likely cause of other hive losses, even if you have “hygienic” bees which are meant to be varroa-resistant. Varroa doesn’t make bees swarm though, it just kills them.
I want to try to help you to help your husband. Well done for stepping in.
I agree, definitely a cockroach. I also see them in my hives, mainly hives with weak colonies. You need to pull the frames out & take photos to show us what’s going on with the brood frames.
Just thinking: Hive beetles can cause a colony to abscond because beetle slyme is a bee repellent. However that will be accompanied with a foul odor & everything in the brood will have a wet appearance, accompanied by thousands of whitish grubs.
Another reason for absconding could be the colony has a new queen & are not happy with the hive they occupy, there may not be much brood to leave, so they decide to get a fresh start in a nice new hollow somewhere. Seeing as you’re in spring, the bees will be optimistic of getting a good fresh start.
I’m not sure if scout bees find a new hollow before they abscond, or they swarm/abscond before the scouts start looking.
Anyway if there’s a few swarms around, maybe a different swarm will take a liking to your vacant hive.
Another reason bees could abscond with my experience is if the honey goes rancid. That happened to me once. A customer for bees gave me his sticky frames to add to his new colony. The sticky frames contained a beery odor. Shortly after, the bees absconded. That was a lesson learnt.
He has a poor attitude, I have a few bee keepers in the area and only too happy to help with advice and helping doing inspections. That way they will be better bee keepers and hopefully a healthier hive so that would reduce the risk of bee drift from sick bees to my hives.
My thoughts is the hive already had an issue before the roaches moved in, a strong healthy hive will normally control roach numbers much like bees do with SHB.
I thought I’d revisit this thread because it occurred to me that there could be another reason why a colony might abscond. I noticed about 15-20 dead bees on a piece of paper I used to unite some bees. While picking the paper up I got a wiff of the dead bees. Dead bees really stink after a while. That makes me think that a lot of dead bees in a hive that the bees can’t remove for some reason, could get quite smelly, giving a colony a good reason to abscond.
Dead bees: it could be a heap of drones trying to fit through a queen excluder. That’s just one example.
Sorry I haven’t been on for a while. My dog had to have surgery, my cows got out…yada yada yada. What I wanted to let you know is a swarm formed in my little dwarf plum tree. We called our friend and suddenly he was interested in helping us. We had put our abandoned hive about 2 feet below the hive. Our friend came out and opened the hive. He kind of gave the branch the swarm was on a couple of whacks and almost the whole swarm fell right in the hive. He was looking for the queen but he figured she was in the middle of the swarm. Anyway he closed it up and after a few minutes all the bees had gone in the hive. I don’t know what the names of the different sizes of hives is but there was a big one first then a smaller one which is the one the bees went in. A few nights later we closed up the entrance and took the hive over in the area of the one active we still have. We left the bigger hive under the tree. The next morning I went out there and it appears all the bees went down into the bigger hive. So I went out where the smaller one was placed and there are bees going in and out of that one too. Sorry this is such a long post but I was so excited.