This is yet another strange year for weather and therefore for bees. I set up a bait hive about a month ago on a friend’s patch of land a few miles from home in a lovely location where one can chill for hours without hearing engine noise.
A swarm arrived and hived itself on the 6th of June. I checked it on the following day and found they occupied 5 frames and so it was a decent size. I left them to establish themselves without further interference for a while. A subsequent visit saw them flying well, but I didn’t open them as I was busy doing other things
On the 14th June I left for a holiday in northern Spain and was away for 8 days. There was plenty of thunder and lightning and rain when we were indoors or on the coach (Crossways Travel) There was snow on some of the hill tops!
When home, I found the rain gauge in my garden was overflowing so there must have been well over 2 inches of rain while I was away! I contacted a friend in Weymouth who also keeps a rain gauge in order to find out what the likely total was and how to split it between days. He had had about half as much but told me that there had been local downpours and flooding my way.
I found a message on my phone telling me that the bees were dead, apparently (to a non-beekeeper) drowned. I couldn’t go to check for a couple of days as I had a referendum to run but visited today (yesterday now as it’s after midnight) in the afternoon. I have a small sheet of wriggly tin in front of the hive to keep the weeds down and that did have some dead bees on it, maybe a score or so and they may well have drowned from their appearance.
I opened the hive and found a couple of palm sized combs, freshly drawn. Most of the cells had dead bees head-first in them: a sign of starvation. On the floor beneath them was what looked like a molehill of bees – dead.
Upon enquiry, I was told that there had been solid rain all week there while I was away. This must have prevented the bees from flying to gather nectar from the abundant local flowers.
Having cleaned up the corpses and tidied the hive, I shall re-bait it tomorrow in the hope that another swarm will find it as my friend was really pleased to have bees on her land.