CSI: Backyard Beekeeper Edition, Part One


Ladies and gentlemen, an investigation is currently underway in our bee yard.

Here are the facts:

We installed four packages on Sunday. Below is a beautiful artist’s rendering (via Microsoft Paint, ha!) of the layout of our bee yard. The four hives we installed are numbered (as you can see):

Bee Yard Final

At approximately 8:15 p.m., we wandered out to the bee yard, to check out the bee traffic coming into the hives. We noticed a normal amount at hive #1, no traffic at hive #2, no traffic at hive #3, and a normal amount at hive #4. This seemed strange, so we threw on our veils and opened hive #2. Let me tell you, there were NO BEES. Not a one bee. The queen was still in her queen cage and she was dead. The hive was completely empty – no comb had been built – nothing.

This was very upsetting, so we checked hive #3. Same thing! This time the queen, still in her cage, was alive, but there were NO STINKIN’ BEES!

Other evidence to consider: It was cool and cloudy/rainy on and off Monday – Wednesday, so we thought if they swarmed they had to have done it that very day because Thursday was the first day it was warm and sunny.

So from approximately 8:20-8:30, my husband and I walked around our 2.5 acres staring up into the trees like idiots. All the while saying, repeatedly, “why would they swarm without a queen?”, “What are the odds of BOTH packages swarming?”, “It’s not fair! Can’t we get a refund?”, and “WHY, do we have the WORST luck!?”

We found no evidence of swarming, so we sadly wandered back to the hives and decided to have a look at the other two while we were there. It was about 60 degrees and the sun was setting, so we didn’t really want to get too invasive, but at least open them up and make sure there were bees inside, for crying out loud.

So we opened hive #1 and, lo and behold, attached to the underside of the top board was the largest, most beautiful homemade comb I’ve ever seen. And, guess what, it was COVERED with bees. In fact, it looked about the size and shape of a swarm!

I didn’t have my camera with me, since we weren’t expecting such excitement, so I’ll have to get some pictures today, but our current suspicion is that three packages (#’s 1, 2, and 3) are in one hive.  We’re hoping to get back out there today or tomorrow when it’s warm and sunny and really have a good look and also to figure out what to do with that beautiful burr comb.

In the meantime, we put the remaining queen (still in her cage) in hive #4 with a queen excluder as an act of desperation. It seems that hive #1 might be the hive to split, but it was too late and cool to really do anything. The queen looked weak, so we’re hoping something exciting happens today.

In hindsight, I’m wondering if the hives are too close together, especially hive 1 and 2.  We’ve kept hives close before, but they were generally established when we moved them or were started from nucs.

We spent the rest of the evening engaged in our own bee-CSI conversation. Did the queen die right away and then the colony left hive #2, or did she die because they left?  Is the queen in hive #3 weak, which is why they left? Or is she weak because they left? Hive #1 was huge, but did it seem 3-packages-huge?

I’m going to tell myself all the bees are in hive one, so that I don’t sob uncontrollably. That will have to work… for now.


4 thoughts on “CSI: Backyard Beekeeper Edition, Part One

  1. That is unlucky, I’ve not come across stories of so many packages being lost like that before.

    I think being transported must be tough on the bees, perhaps the travelling led to the queens dying. Or I wonder how these packages were put together. Had the queens been with the colonies long, or were they placed with any old bees unrelated to them? Did the bees dislike the queens’ pheromones for some reason? It wouldn’t make sense for the bees to go off without a queen, so hopefully they have all gone into hive 1.

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