The New Bees Ran Away From Home...It is really disappointing and kind of deflating as a beekeeper when the bees disappear. Like coming home, looking forward to seeing your friend only to find that the friend has moved out while you were away and didn't even leave a note.
The Relationship AutopsyThe easy response is to just say Those stupid bees didn't know how good they had it. The reality of the situation is a lot more grim than that. When looking back on what happened this time and the last time we tried to move the slump block hive, there were some common symptoms of the problem.
What Happened?In both cases, the bees started out okay. We thought we were doing good, giving them a nice warm cavern out of the wind where they could build their combs. Then, after the first day or two, the bees dwindle... then dwindle a little more... No foraging. We check inside and they are all huddled together to keep warm. What does this indicate? Slow starvation of the bees. When we figured this out, we felt really bad about it. And when we finally figured out how to help them, it was probably too late.
In the last two instances, we moved bees that had no reserves. The Scottsdale swarm had started building on the branch and probably had no more honey reserves for their foraging energy. The slump block bees were not prepared for a move and all their comb and honey had been robbed by the new hive. They then had no energy for foraging.
How Did This Happen?
Bees need food to get energy to build wax comb and to forage. We did figure that out, and put some of the honey from the other hive in with the bees along with a slat of comb. We checked on them and they didn't eat anything. They stayed huddled in the top corners. We weren't even sure the queen was still around.
Then, I tried to google a few keywords, and found some very helpful information about keeping a swarm alive during dearth, during transition or after capturing a feral swarm.
You Can Lead A Bee To Honey
The strangest aspect of this issue is that simply putting honey out for them is not going to help. What helps is making it warm. Like 100 degrees fahrenheit warm otherwise they can't eat it. We ended up taking some warm honey out to them, putting drops here and there and the little bees were sucking it up super fast. They seemed to have a little more energy, but it is probably too little too late.
When I went to check on them today, there were even fewer bees. I added warm honey for food and saw one bee deep in the transplanted honeycomb. One bee does not a hive make.
Sadly, we relisted our free bee removal add on Craigslist. Sad because I would rather have been successful this time. We'll do better next time.