This past week has been a complete rollercoaster of emotions.
One minute, everything was fine, and the next we witnessed bees fighting for their lives outside of the hive! When we saw piles of little bee corpses in front of our hives, we were positive that we were the worst bee-moms ever and that we ruined our colonies in about a month.
It looked as though the bees were tousling outside with each other, and tossing one another to the ground.
We inspected our hives and found them both to be weak. They definitely looked much different than our last inspections with no new eggs and no new larvae. Just like that, the colonies seemed to be collapsing. We were in shock that things could turn so quickly, within a week!
The only curious thing was that we saw both of our queens when we had assumed the cause of the mayhem was that our hives had become queen-less.
Amazingly, amidst all this craziness, we witnessed something truly rare! Queen bees very rarely emit a "piping" or "quacking" sound. We had just recently learned about this and to our surprise, we heard it coming from on of our hives!
After a momentary freak out we collected all the information we could and emailed our local, and very knowledgeable, beekeeping resource: Mark. Right away he calmed our worries and explained that our issues most likely were a compilation of a few minor problems, rather than a huge catastrophe.
Phew! As soon as we read that we all let out a little sigh of relief.
The email read on to say that there was probably a lack of nectar (or a "dearth" - a word we just learned) and that our girls were getting hungry! Robbing could have been a factor as well hence the fighting and dead bees present.
His advice for us was that the bees most likely will figure everything out on there own and it is best to help them along by simply feeding them and checking on them.
Feeding we can do! I went straight to Buckerfield's and picked up some feeders for the bees. Upon my return, I realized that I didn't stop to research what kind of feeders, and the ones I picked up (entrance feeders) were not the best to use as it can promote robbing.
We knew these girls couldn't possibly take any more stress, so we researched the best methods of feeding and landed on the "baggie method".
This consisted of us filling up large ziplock bags with simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water) and laying the bag right over the hive body frames for each hive. We then took a sharp object (an Exacto-knife in our case) and made slits in the bag so the bees can feed. After that, we put an empty shallow super box over top to allow room for the bag and left the bees to eat for a day.
The results from out baggie feeding were very interesting! We opened up the hives and noticed much better vibes from both our colonies. Busier for sure which made us very happy but we expected the bags to be dry and they were still quite full.
We began with the weaker hive and made much bigger slits in the bags so they could really get in there. The hive seemed to be doing better regardless so we left it be to see what it would look like in a few days.
The busier hive had started building comb all around the bag!
We were amazed at how fast they got to work. Since the brood looked much better and they were already starting on the last of their frames in the hive body, we decided they were ready for a honey super!
To make sure they were still getting enough food, we decided to experiment and use an entrance feeder on this hive and compare which method worked out best for us. We checked back in one day and already had to fill up the feeder! Hungry gals!
This week we will be anticipating the health of our hives and look forward to our next inspection to see how our feeding experiment goes!