The Honeymoon Is Over

It was nice while it lasted, but the honeymoon is over.  (See, I told you there were more bad puns to come)

partially drawn frame @empirebeefarm
Our breakup letter

With bated breath we removed the feeder to take a look at our bustling new hive.  It had been a week since
we added the package to their new home.  This was to be an easy, quick look to be sure the queen was released.  As we pulled the feeder off of the brood chamber we were shocked to see… nothing.  And I mean nothing.  No bees, no queen.  The only evidence that bees were ever there were an empty queen cage and a couple partially-drawn frames packed with a little pollen and some syrup.  I felt like a groom left at the alter.

What happened?  In short, they absconded.  Basically, the colony doesn’t like where it lives for one reason or another.  It could be lack of food or water, pesky neighbors (e.g. skunks, yellowjackets, or loud lawnmowers), the smell of the new hive, overheating, or disease.  When Rusty at Honey Bee Suite wrote about absconding the other week I gave her post a quick read and moved on.  Why should I worry about that?  Our packages were already installed, and everything seemed to be doing okay, besides the deadly feeders.  But that was quickly resolved, and both hives had been eating.  Even two days prior there was activity in the feeder.

So why did they leave?  Looking back, it could have been a number of things.  The bees started out in an abusive relationship.  We were unintentionally killing them from the beginning.  We were also too needy.  Since we were paranoid about killing them, we were opening up the feeder (but not the hive) every day to make sure everyone was doing okay.  Or maybe they just didn’t like our place after they moved in.  Was it the smell?  We use screened bottom boards, and I have since read they can lead to new packages absconding.

Next time we’ll do things a little differently.

  • First, we’ll be sure to provide the new package with a couple of drawn frames.  This should make them feel a little more at ease and not work them so hard.
  • Second, the queen’s release will be delayed.  This can be done by not removing the cork for three or four days, then allowing the queen to self release.  Or you can wait a week and manually release her.  Either way it will give the workers time to build up foundation.  If there is more foundation, then it’s less likely they will leave.
  • Third, we will just let them be for longer.  The only visits will involve peaking at the entrance to be sure there is activity.
  • Fourth, a solid board will cover the the screen bottom board until the colony is established.

I’m not sure we’ll never know exactly why this relationship ended.  Most likely that it was us, not them.  Hopefully we’ll learn from our mistakes and treat our ladies better in the future.

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