Beekeepers Anonymous

Beekeepers Anonymous

After I wrote about Grieving For Bees I felt there was a need for a Beekeepers Support Group which could help us deal with our grief when we have failed a bee colony. I’m happy to be the first to stand and say ‘Hello, I am Roger and I miss my bees’. Ok here I go.

“My name is Roger. Due to my intervention, in one case, and lack of intervention, in the other, I have failed two colonies:

  • September 2012 – I combined two hives, one of which had Laying Workers who killed my healthy Queen (This tale starts with: Combing Hives = Less To Worry About)
  • September 2013 – A colony starved to death.  With the good weather I presumed they had plenty of stores. (Read: Starving Bees)

Also, and this is close to my heart as I write this … I found the Queen alive in the starved hive with 20 bees (see Hive Records for 29 September 2013) and she is currently in a Queen cage on the kitchen table and I don’t know what to do with her. I called a couple of beekeeping friends but they don’t need a Queen. It sounds kind to release her, but she might return to the location of the old hive and then try and enter my good hive, which could result in trouble. Or it might just prolong the inevitable as she has no attendant bees. Next time, I will accept my loss sooner and be faster to alert local beekeepers to a spare Queen.”

Let me know how you guys have handled any colony loss of your own (and make me feel a bit more sure that I’m not alone!). Or please share any other beekeeping confessions you need to get off your chest and lessons learnt.

As the moderator of all comments I will ensure this page is kept positive and empathetic.

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17 thoughts on “Beekeepers Anonymous”

  1. Well I know you felt – I feel the same.. I’ve just lost my single hive of bees and it’s heart breaking to see the few still barely alive amongst the masses of dead..

    Why didn’t I think?! I checked them only a week or so ago and thought “hmm, they seem a bit quiet but OK”

    Why did I not poke the bag of sugar compound I’d left on the slats in late November? If I had I would have realised that whilst the bag looked full, it was actually completely empty.

    And then on Friday I noticed piles of dead being pushed out..and when I checked properly on Sunday I was far too late.

    It simply didn’t occur to me that they had run out of food.

    And I let them down.. and they starved.

    Awful…. : /

  2. Hi Roger, have been a beekeeper for all of 4 months… Caught a swarm and put it into a brood box near where they swarmed (my home). Finally after 4 months they had outgrown the box and decided to have a pro move to the front of my yard. We did it at night and he left some behind in old brood box. Next morning the swarm had formed a huge ball in now open old box which he had left open next to new hive. Pending rain my son and I tried to put them back in new box… Yesterday bees were dying in the hundreds so we fed them honey… Even got on my hands and were licking away… Today I noticed no activity and so opened new hive to find no queen and only 20 bees left… I have been crying all day… I loved them so much and miss my little friends that I used to talk to everyday… Am I the only one who gets so attached to them… What did I do wrong… I’m devastated! Regards Shelley

    1. Hi Shelley,
      Big Beekeeper Hug. That is really sad news.
      I found some relief in what another commentor said “… there’s an old, although not very comforting saying: Where there’s livestock, there’s dead stock.”
      Read the beekeeping book again (or my notes on hiving a swarm) and then wait for another swarm to come your way.
      Alternatively split a friend’s hive or buy yourself a nuc of bees.
      By this time next year, you’ll be a beekeeper!

  3. Hi

    I am clinging onto saving my one and only colony. I too am very distraught as my bees are starving, crawling slowly over other dead bees. I have done all that has been recommended. The bees just wouldn’t feed from the feeder. I’ve just looked and the queen is still alive. I don’t know what to do now!!??? I have dribbled syrup into the comb for the few that are left so they have food, what now??? Shall I put a dummy board either side of the one frame that has the syrup in and close the entrance? I could put a hummus lid on the mesh with water on?? HELP!!

    1. Hi Carrie,
      Very distressing.
      Sorry for the delay in replying. How are the bees doing? Have they survived so far?
      If it helps … I had no colonies in April this year, now I have 4! Feeling more confident with the increase in colonies.

      1. I lost them 🙁 Robbers came and killed the few left, devastated. Was wondering if I wanted to start again….have realised I do. Very sad losing my first colony!!

  4. I happened upon this site by chance. I have two hives and I have no idea if I should be feeding them or not…or how…or with what. My strong hive has a super of honey above it with maybe 8 frames full (I think). The other hive has only the single brood box with some honey (this is a smaller hive because I lost a queen a couple months ago and re-queened from the strong hive using two frames of fresh brood). I need specifics, like exactly what to use as a feeder, where to place it, when to check it, etc… This is my first year and first winter and I really don’t want to let them down by killing them.

    1. Apologies for delayed response (full time job and 2 young children). Hopefully the bees have survived the last 3 days. Recommend you read my page on Feeding Bees – this should contain all the answers.
      Your strong hive sounds OK should have enough stores for winter – but you need to keep checking and feed fondant if necessary.
      Your weak hive sounds like it will need feeding. See my feeding bees page for ideas on how to do this – thick sugar syrup if its warm enough, otherwise, fondant.

  5. Just been to see mine to find that I have lost the whole colony. They seemed fine in January, when I poked my head in to check they were all right and put on some more feed. But a few weeks later, they were all dead and there looked like a mouse had been eating the frames. I have no idea what I have done wrong and I’m so upset and ashamed I’ve killed them all… :((

    1. All beekeepers have lost colonies over winter. It’s the hardest part of being a beekeeper. Get stuck back in with some more bees.

  6. I have just discovered my only hive had starved to death. It is a devastating thing. I am glad to see that I am not the only person to ever let this happen. I felt like an utter failure. I do not think I will try again. I am still really sad it could have been prevented it and I failed them. They survived last winter no problems. They had varroa mites and hive beetles as well.

    1. Hi Tara,
      I just popped down to the allotment today to discover one of my hives was starving. Totally my fault as I read the comb a week ago and it was on the light side. I have done some emergency feeding. Don’t give up on the beekeeping because of this. This is a common mistake to learn from and be a better beekeeper.

  7. I was gifted a nuc last year by a friend and thought I was doing really well. In late March we noticed piles of dead bees around the hive entrance so we waited until Easter to have a look as the weather was so awful. By then there was maybe 100 bees left and 1000s on the hive mesh. The remaining bees died within days. I was devastated and felt so guilty for letting my bees and my kind friend down.

    In 2 weeks my amazing friend will give me another nuc and in all honesty I’m terrified of getting it wrong again. I think I failed to feed enough in the autumn so I’ll be tryingbfondant and syrup this year. I have a beehaus so any top tips on keeping feed inside this hive would be massively helpful. Thanks for having a space to share these sad stories of bee loss.

  8. I am so happy to have found this site. I have lost two hives since I started tending bees. The first one I lost, was devastating to see and it broke my heart. I wrote an entire chapter about it in my book, which isn’t about bees but collective grief. I appreciate you setting up this page. I don’t think people understand what it is like to see a once thriving hive-lifeless. People don’t know it unless they’ve been through it.

  9. I feel more guilt than sadness, as it is inevitably my fault when queens die. I bought a new queen for 50 pounds and was determined not to lose my investment. I knocked down supercedure cells, and she died, and it was too late for them to make another. I should have put her in a nuc. I did not test the pen marker before marking her; she was covered with ink. I carried a nuc but did not keep it level; I experimented with two layers of gloves and must have been rough handling them. I’m perplexed, but I suppose I must have fed them too early, but this autumn, most of my hives have too many bees, so I will have to feed them fondant all through the winter, which will be expensive. I hope someone can learn from my mistakes.

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