Yesterday, as there was nobody else around on the allotments I took a peek at my hive there. I was a little concerned as, recently, they haven’t been flying as strongly as one would expect, but I hesitated to dress myself up in full armour to inspect them in case I spooked other allotment users! The day was warm enough, about 62 degrees, and I could see lots of bees foraging on my borage, but none flying to or from the hive.
With a premonition of what I was about to find, I didn’t bother to dress up to take the lid off the hive, followed by the strata below. There wasn’t a bee to be seen, alive or dead! I haven’t been able to examine the brood of this hive properly as it is the one that is an experiment that went wrong. A DARG (Devon Apicultural Research Group) colleague, Jim Slade (no relation!) had given me some experimental frames of his own design to test.
The idea of the frames is that, given a sufficient clue as to where it would be convenient for the beekeeper for the bees to build their comb, that’s where they would build it. Maybe my bees are thick or the clues were insufficient but they drew their comb more or less at right angles to the intended direction and so the frames were irremovable.
I would have expected, on the death of a colony, for there to be lots of dead bees and debris on the floor, but this was not the case. It was perfectly clean. There were no stores in the hive. I turned the brood box upside down so as to get a better look and spotted a couple of old queen cells, also a solitary capped brood cell. With the aid of the corkscrew on my Swiss Army hive tool I hoiked out the baby. It was a drone, but undersized.
My diagnosis of this instance of ‘CCD’, therefore, is that the bees attempted to supersede with no regnal overlap and the new queen either failed to mate because of the weather or was snapped up by a swallow. The remainder lived out their summer span, dwindled and died, a few of them attempting to pass on their genes by laying and rearing unfertilised eggs.
If I remember, I shall take the brood box along to the next DARG meeting to show Jim.