All last week some of the other colonies in the Common Yard were robbing the Borgia hive. All I could do was close the top entrance, and the bottom entrance was already reduced to the minimum, which slowed down the process. I didn’t open the hive as it would have invited a frenzy, which I know from experience is to be avoided at all costs – because the cost is often the demise of either the robbing or robbed colony, or both. Now I wish I had opened it.
It was cold enough yesterday (57 F) for the bees not to be flying and not too cold to open the hive and have a look at what would make such a well-populated, well-stocked, strong-queened colony so prone to robbers.Well, there was no one home. There were just a handful of dead bees on the bottom board (screened, so there was no way to see if there was a mass of mites). All the honey… gone, too. Had I gone in earlier, I’d have saved some of that honey for my other hives. Only some, I think, because interestingly, some of the honey frames were shredded and frayed (a sign of quick robbing), but others were neatly emptied. Did Borgia and her bees swarm or abscond, taking most of the honey with them?
I came home saddened, then went into my two home hives and found Anna too had perished. A sugar roll at the end of August had found the mites below threshold, but clearly I must no longer rely on those: the full bottom board showed tons and tons of mites. Among the fifty or so bees left was Anna herself, the Russian queen. She looks very small. I had never felt happy with this colony’s progress but I wanted to give this queen (whom I gave the last split I made, from Borgia) a chance. There was a little bit of honey left. I’m freezing those frames to kill mites, hive beetle, wax moth eggs and diseases, and will give them to the remaining hives.
I’ve never lost a colony before winter before. And now two. It was a disheartening discovery.
So I’m down to five. In light of the mite discovery in Anna’s home, I will treat with an oxalic acid dribble once the temperatures fall to 40F. It could be too late for some, but it could make all the difference for others, if not all. I do want to go treatment free, but I have to build up a good apiary before I can start experimenting. With winter coming, more studying and thinking is coming up, but in the meantime I need these bees to survive.
Goodbye Anna and Borgia and offspring. I thank you for gracing us with your beautiful presence the shape of a bee.