Honeyflow.com | FAQ's | Community |

Bees disappearing act


Hello everyone! We’ve live in Murwillumbah on 120 acres, lots of all sorts of bees: honey bees of varying goldness, stingless natives, blue banded, teddybear bees, resin bees, carpenter bees, not to mention different kind of wasps. The past few years i noticed that after seeing thousands of bees gorging on Salvia, Echium and everything (and also rescuing lots of honey bees from our swimming pool) by November-early December it seems that they’ve all but disappeared. Then after Xmas, bingo! They’re all back! It’s happening again this year: the lemon myrtle and flowering ashes are in heavy bloom, lots of insects, lots of native bees, not many honey bees. Any idea?


Hi Elyane, it might just be that there are no wild honeybee hives in your area (they can get wiped out by small hive beetle and disease). Do you know if there are any beekeepers closeby? i.e. within 5km of your property. Thats about the limit of how far they will venture from their hive to forage but prefer closer resources.


One beekeeper keeps a hive down the bottom paddock next door, i checked that his bees were indeed going in and out a couple of days ago; there didn’t seem to be thousands of them but a steady traffic. This very hive had been slimed out a few months ago and was totally dead, all parts drying in the sun; but he seems to have built it up again. There are wild hives, there must be, we get hundreds and hundreds of them flying in the garden at all time, it’s just this pre Xmas absence that really has me baffled. Maybe they’re too busy Xmas shopping :smile: ** Seriously, it’s really bizarre, i’ve just taken a walk and found some Blue Banded bees on the blue Salvias, little narcissistic things that they are, but no honey bees there. The test will be the creeping Grevillea, I have some Royal Mantle growing all over the ground and you do not dare to walk barefoot on it because the honey bees just adore it. So, i’ll keep checking it. It will be interesting when i have my own FlowHive, we’ll have to equip our bees with GPS :wink:


The slimed hive - was it a neighbours? So there could be SHB problems near by.

Are there any local beeks who take their hives to other crops during that time? Or are you seeing hives absent of bees?


Haha… Tracking where your bees go could be a bit of a challenge. I have a suburban backyard in the city and rarely find my own bees in the yard, I do get daily visits from the solitary bees into the wisteria, salvia, borage and sage. I was beginning to worry about the native bees until this weekend past when I spotted the first blue banded for the summer. Could be that the honeybees have better sources at this time of year but they will return when it becomes more leaner for nectar gathering.


You’re right, there is a secret source somewhere Anyway, i’m on beewatch**


Yes, that’s what i thought, and there is an old codger beekeeper in Chillingham who has been keeping bees for centuries (I shouldn’t make fun, i’m 67!) and he’s had the worst couple of years of his life with SHB and disease, he’s ready to chuck it in. I’m really worried about the SHB, we kept bees for 6 years and stopped in 2002, no SHB and no problems, we never had any problems just really productive bees. One hive were Italian and lovely and the other Caucasian we were told, they were horrible, really mean bees, the hive were side by side (one facing east, the other north) and they always made completely different honey. We decided to start again when the FlowHive appeared and then got nightmares about the SHB. I’ve decided to transform my FlowHive into a long/top bar hive so i can check the brood box more easily. Anyway, still don’t have my hive, plenty of time to plant and design!


Hi Elyane, what the bees do is go for the best possible nectar source they can find, they will actually leave a good nectar source for an even better one. So there must have been a really good honey flow somewhere for the bees to look scarce & re-appear like that. SHB can be a problem but it can be overcome with a few simple rules to follow. I’m able to keep them in check up here in Buderim without any traps. So if I can do it, anyone can do it.


I’m sure you’re right and it happens every year! I’m taking the SHB seriously, I was really bothered when i first heard about it and checked out a thousand books/youtube/on line, and i’m going to be very vigilant. So what are the rules you are following**?


Hi Elyane, it’s basically keep the hive strong in worker numbers. Don’t allow any large areas of drone comb within the brood. It’s important to not have any frames containing brood or pollen that doesn’t have a good covering of worker bees. Keep the sides of the super & floor free of burr comb. Don’t put brood combs too close to the sides. Don’t squash bees between frames that are difficult for worker bees to quickly remove. Remove burr comb from frames before replacing them. Squash every beetle you see. By all means use a trap/traps to keep the beetle numbers down. I like the vinyl mat sitting on top of my honey frames, the bees will coral the beetle up there & propolize them in between the top bars & mat.


Thanks Jeff, I just saw your video on the vinyl mat and i checked your YouTube channel, it’s really great that you can share your knowledge with so many people. I wish i lived near Buderim, i’d learn even more! I’ve been reading about this man: John Kefuss, American lives in France, his focus is on the varroa mite and he is breeding Hygienic Queens who produce bees that are resistant/fight back the mite; his philosophy is “Live and Let Die” :blush: So i guess that’s what you’re doing: keeping strong hives and i guess if some hives slime out, you just have to clean up and start again! Facilitating the capture of SHB with the vinyl mat is a brilliant idea too.


Thank you, I had a couple of hives I recently had to clean out, but it was entirely my fault for letting my guard down & not following my own advice. I’m working over 60 hives. I went & checked on another hive last week that I knew was getting pretty weak in numbers. Turned out it was queenless & must have only been a matter of a short space of time before it got slimed out, there were literally hundreds of beetle present. The bees had a group of beetle, probably a heaped teaspoon full coralled in the back corner. As soon as I removed the frame sitting on top of them, they went everywhere. I had a mentee with me, we had fun for a while squashing beetles. I removed all the frames containing pollen & left them with a different box & bottom board, a nice frame of brood with which to make a new queen, a couple of empty frames & a frame of honey. Fingers crossed they’ll be ok.


60 hives! I’ve only ever had two! I’m hoping to have two again. Last time we weren’t really beekeepers, we were just plain bee robbers but we were totally lucky, never had any problem in six years, they were healthy, they produced lots of honey and they requeened themselves! You know how they say the gods protect little children, drunks and ignorants? That would be us, the ignorants I mean :blush: And you know what? We gave the two hives away when we moved and within three months they were completely dead! Anyway, this time we’ll be hand on.


That’s too bad about those two hives, the Gods must have been looking after you:) It all happened in the year 2000, the first time I saw a beetle, I seriously thought my beekeeping days were over. I soon came to realise we could live with them. My first major slime out was a hive that the cows knocked over. When I talk about my strategy, well that’s evolving. A couple of the things I mentioned today were new on my list. A couple of things I forgot to mention is to be careful of stuff we leave laying around outside the hive, make sure there’s nothing the beetle can breed up in. The other thing is: if our hives weaken for any reason, find out what caused it & fix it as soon as possible. In that process, don’t leave frames in the hive that are unprotected by workers. Sorry if I sound like a nagger, but that’s basically what works for me, as long as I keep my guard up. I did a bit of frame juggling this afternoon, getting a colony ready for someone down your way. The whole time keeping shb in mind, making sure I didn’t overburden a weak colony with too much brood frames they can’t look after & protect. Once upon a time, the main issue with giving a weak colony a lot of frames of brood was: can the bees keep the brood warm enough? Now it’s that coupled with the worry of shb damage.


I have plans for my ‘bee yard’: we’ll clear a space and put weed mat and cracker dust on it, i was going to do that anyway because the weeds here are phenomenal in the summer but i’m hoping it will make life hard for the SHB when they drop down to pupate. I was also thinking of putting diatomaceous earth right under the hive so that the little blighters can fall on it and die! I also want to put four tins of grease oil under the legs because the ants here also want to take over the world and finally i’ll put caps *at the top * of the legs to stop the mice and rats who also want everything we have. It’s a jungle here, beautiful but full of things that want to kill you and kill the things you love :confused: But we would live anywhere else :bouquet:


Sound like a plan. recently someone said ants don’t like cinnamon - sprinkle over the grease in the tins?


Nah! Waste of a wonderful spice, the grease will do. I paint the bottom of posts with it and that stops them. One thing they also hate is garlic! So garlic spray really stops them and a myriad of pesky insects, like grasshoppers who are really bad at the moment. I would love to say we should paint it on the hives to repel the SHB but i wouldn’t be game to experiment: maybe the bees won’t like it either :confounded:**


Hi Elyane, the other day someone gave me a good tip for ants. If you have a hive stand on legs, just tie grease soaked rags around them. You could have a stand like the ones you’ll seen on the net with only a thick single post, that way you’ll only need one rag. Rats shouldn’t worry them, a long thin entrance might keep mice out, I can’t be too sure on that, I haven’t had any trouble with either in the hives. We keep our hives up off the ground because of cane toads. They eat bees like lollies. Take care, bye:)


Hi guys! I solved the mystery of the disappearing bees! As usual they were back by Boxing day, feasting on Grevillea Royal Mantle and Salvias and lots of other goodies; i had a very good look and i know (or I think I know which trees they went away for: Alphitonia exelcior, aka Red Ash. I have lots of them in the upper forest and my neighbour has planted lots on the flats along the river. So there we have it, they have now finished flowering and are full of berries, so the birds will be happy now :slightly_smiling: By the way i’ve received my hive but we haven’t had time to do anything with it yet, i want to turn it into a long hive. We’ve been too busy renovating the human hive :scream:, over soon, so we’ll organise the hive spot and make the long hive. Cheers Elyane