There was a swarm for a few days which seemed to have lead to the colony decline. Bee traffic dropped to zero and then I noticed the grubs.
This box was made in 2016 and has housed bees from 2019 for four years and has never been split or opened. It has always been a very strong or active hive.
Upon opening the box and investigating further…
- Plenty of brood, but all with open cells on the advancing front.
- Did the queen die and the colony didn’t re-queen?
- Did the swarming reduce the strength of the colony and let invasive pests like Phorid fly in?
- It has been a bad year for stingless bee colonies with quite a few dieing and being attacked by Phorid fly.
- The mould most likely came after the colony died. This is a fairly normal thing to happen.
If we pretend that the colony isn’t dead, looking at the structures and box design, there’s plenty of brood, but the brood takes up a lot of the internal volume of the two brood boxes.There’s not a lot of space for resources like pollen. Each frame is 1.5 litres in volume so that’s only 3 litres in total for the main colony. The honey super is another 1.5 litres in volume and was completely packed with honey. Unfortunately I missed an opportunity to harvest that honey. Most standard boxes are around 5 or 6 litres for the main colony and then another 1 to 2 litres for the honey super on top, but I made this box to try different designs.
While they lived perfectly fine for four years and the size of the box may have had nothing to do with the failure, I can’t help but think it would’ve been better if the volume was larger in the hope of increasing colony resources. Even adding another brood frame so the main colony area was three levels high.
It’s possible they may have built themselves out and benefited from being split every year. Small boxes may fill quicker but also build themselves out quicker so maybe a bad idea to not split?