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New bees just up and left

Hi folks

I am new to this. I was given a hive last Christmas and got it prepared by painting with linseed oil and left it for a few weeks, then COVID hit and the place that supplies bees closed down.

I located my hive in the garden facing north east. It is shaded in the mornings and afternoons but sunny during the day.

Last week I bought some bees and followed the instructions for putting them in the hive - early evening, supplied a 50/50 mix of sugar and water.

Three days later the bees have all gone.

I am loathe to go and spend another 170 bucks until I have sense of what went wrong.

Any ideas please?

Was it a package of bees? It maybe the bees didn’t like the oil inside the box. If they didn’t have any brood to hold them there, they probably absconded.

I think you’re better off with a nucleus of 4-5 frames with bees, brood & a young queen. If you had a nuc with at least 3 frames of brood, that brood will be enough to hold the bees.

Sorry to hear of your loss. That’s a bitter pill to swallow.


@Fish-head3, Duncan yeah sorry for your lose. Can you give some greater description of what your purchase contained, eg number of frames supplied, and what did the frames consist of eg brood (baby bees), honey and pollen. Was the queen an old one or a young one, was she even there. That would help those here on this forum to try and work out what has gone so wrong for you. I TOO am a newbee, and have only had my bees for about a month now, and just (on Wednesday) had my first inspection with the beekeeper whom sold me my bees here too. Chin up, don’t give up, it can only get better for you.:crossed_fingers::crossed_fingers:


More info?
Package or nucleus colony? As Jeff says, if there was brood on the frames they should stay however linseed oil can be an irritant. Did you paint the inside of the boxes?
Foundation on the frames? Wax, plastic?
Single box or more?
How did you supply the feed?

Dear Both

Many thanks for getting back to me so quickly. What I bight was like a box with mesh sides. Inside was a can that had some liquid (sugar solution) and all the bees, maybe a thousand or less). The queen (not sure of her age) was inside a small cage. When I got home I waited until dusk and then put the box inside the hive, after removing the queen and putting her in the hive as well.

The linseed oil was done about ten months ago. There was no painting inside.

There brood box is brand new. From what I saw on the Flow Hive videos the bees should start building comb from the top of them. They built a small nit of comb (about 10cm across) but hanging from the roof



Package then.
You do have frames in the box don’t you?
Next time go with a nucleus or nuc colony as Jeff says, this way you will have built out frames and brood to keep the bees in.
Perhaps join a local bee club and you may be able to get a cheap colony from one of the other members. :+1:
Good luck.

Thank you again

Yes, there are frames in the box

I need to join a bee club!!

1000 or less bees would be an exceptionally meager package. The average US package probably contains around 10,000 bees.


I agree, it probably was more like 10,000 bees. I did some scary arithmetic. 1000 bees for $170 = about 6 bees for a dollar.

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It sounds as if you did a lot of things right in the package installation…but from my experience with shaking packages it sounds as if there was a queen-related problem within the hive that caused the bees to vacate. The assumed queen problem could be due to a few factors:

  1. An injured queen or a queen physically distanced from the workforce bees…I’ve seen them drop off a frame and crawl to a corner on the bottom board and left unattended by the workforce. It sounds as if you may have placed the package inside the broodbox hoping that the workforce would crawl out of their screened shipping box and not physically shook the worker bees on to the frames?

  2. A queen that wasn’t accepted by the workers…because a) the queen hadn’t been with the workforce bees for at least four days before being released b) There was a virgin queen in with the workforce bees

  3. Method of queen release…did you pop out the cork on the queen cage, put a nail hole in the candy plug, or did you tear off the screen and shake her into the brood box? Packages I used to get from California (3 day trip) had the queens left in their cages and placed cross-wise on the frame top bars and left for a day or two - then released…New Zealand packages (4 plus day trip) I could direct release by tearing off the screen of the queen cage and carefully let her crawl onto the frames.

  4. Caged queens…when released… are notorious for flying off into the sky…never to be seen again…when I direct release queens it is always done under that plastic sheet. I use that plastic sheet under the Flowhive lid to seal in heat and moisture needed in my climate to rear maximum brood.

If the bees are placed on new frames, I try to provide accessible resources for them…i.e. syrup and pollen patties…note the small stick placed crossways near the syrup frame feeder providing that ease of access…even when there is forage around them to gather because you never know if you are going to get a week of cooler weather. The feeder is inside the hive where the syrup warms to the temperature of the adjacent cluster…and I never do an inspection for 3 weeks when I see that fresh wax being built under the plastic…all is well. But if I don’t see that fresh wax under the plastic sheet within several days of package installation, something is amiss.

When it comes to deciding how to initially start your first hive, as you know, your choices are either nucleus colonies or packages. The nucleus colony should have an established queen and built-out frames to help anchor the colony. The package bee scenario doesn’t have that anchor…but it doesn’t have the pending threat of disease (chalkbrood, AFB, nosema) or parasite loads inherent in used equipment/brood… this has been our experience.

I know it’s an expensive loss…and tough on your optimism…but it seems everything I’ve learned about beekeeping has cost me both…don’t give up!


Hi Jeff

Thanks for your considered and retailed advice. A few quick replies.

  1. the queen - I opened the cage after about 24 hours and let her out. Where she went to I don’t know but she was on top of the frames when I closed the lid. I don’t know how long she had been with the workers but the cage was well covered and well defended!
  2. Food - I had a sugar syrup inside the brood box and it had stocks in it to assist the bees.
  3. I put the package in the brood box as advised by the bee guy who sold them. He has been in business for many years. I was a bit surprised by this as it goes against all the advice/videos I have researched but I figured he knew his stuff.

I may try another supplier next time but finding sources of nucleus colonies does not seems easy. I have joined a bee club with a view to seeking some advice.

Have a great Christmas


was there any ant activity around the hive? One thing I have seen that can cause a swarm or very weak colony to abscond completely is ants. Normally ants do not bother an established colony in my experience. But newly established colonies that are attacked by ants can abscond on the second day- just all up and vacate- not a bee left behind. for this reason I am careful to place very small weak colonies up high and away from ants.


yes, I saw ants and wondered about them but there were not many and i don’t know whether the bees had already decamped. The whole things happened over a short period of time - 3 days

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Warning @Fish-head3 regarding joining a bee club, do so by all means, BUT be careful as there are many whom still haven’t grasped the flow hive concept yet, and may just give bad advice, as to cause a newbie beekeeper TOO CAUSE THEM TO FAIL. The Amateur bee club that I joined, has several such persons in the club, and at first they wouldn’t even have anything to do with the FH concept AT ALL (thankfully before I had joined). They even left a flow hive unattended for 8 months blaming the cause on the COVID-19 lockdown, as the club meets at the local University.

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Thanks for this. I ended up joining a bee club just to try and find someone who may know something as all my inquiries to date have not been all that fruitful. The trouble is that they seem to run bee courses (for 300 bucks) and their advice is that doing a course will fix everything…

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Hopefully you find a bee-buddy or mentor at the club who could guide you along. There’s a lot to take in during your first year as a beek.

Marjority of beeks are very forth coming with advice and experience.

Head up. You’re not the first person to lose bees and won’t be the last.

Hi Duncan, definitely don’t pay out $300 for a bee coarse. Someone was recently advertising on here. They charge $290 I think for answering questions for 90-120 minutes. They don’t even supply water for that. You have to bring your own. Just read up & ask questions on this forum. Look for answers in the FAQ’s.

I think if you take in a whole lot of information over a short period of time, you can get into information overload, so therefore you’ll be wasting your money.

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I have a suggestion. You might consider taking a look at https://www.thebeekeeper.org. They have up to date beekeeping video lessons from well-known and respected beekeepers around the world. They cover everything from the basics to more advanced concepts and are constantly adding new videos. The advice is Flow hive friendly. You do have to pay a subscription, but you can try it free for a month. I think it is good value for money. :blush:

I agree Dawn, the information taken in over a longer period of time, coupled with owning a hive & learning as you go will probably be retained, not to mention more affordable. A bombardment of information over a 2 hr. period, based on personal experience doesn’t always get retained.

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Thanks all for the thoughts and advice.

There is obviously a lot of support in the bee community

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