I went to pay some rent for an apiary – at a jar of honey/hive/annum it works out at about £77,000 an acre! – and, on the way called in to see the bees and give them a dose of oxalic. I saw a bee flying so put on my veil, then started opening the hive, which was well propolised. I was surprised that I didn’t stir them up but then it gradually it dawned on me that the bee I saw had been the only one, maybe a visitor at that! I know that there are other bees nearby as these bees arrived last year as a swarm with the queen ready marked!
I tried to do a post-mortem but there were precious few corpses. I counted 18 dead wasps on the floor and not many more than that of bees. There were corpses outside in front of the entrance but they were almost at the compost stage. I found a couple of combs with sealed brood, arranged in rings so they had been laid by the queen rather than the more random scatter of laying workers.
The hive had 3 supers, 2 of which had been put back after harvesting, and 2 brood boxes. There was some woodpecker damage to the supers and I suppose it is possible the bird got a meal or two from bees defending the small holes it had created. Beneath the supers are 2 brood boxes which have plenty of stores in the shape of ivy honey.
If I was in America I would claim CCD! However, last year, or the year before, that entire apiary, then having 4 hives, was wiped out by wasps. I know because I saw them at it and couldn’t do anything about it. That time they took everything: bees, brood and stores. Why didn’t they rob out the hive this time? I suspect because what they want is nectar/liquid stores and there was plenty of that available on the trees without having to crunch up the honey.
It was a very warm, late autumn this year and we’ve had only a couple of light frosts and so the wasps lasted a lot longer than usual, so I’m blaming them. Has anybody got a better diagnosis?