Octahive colony died!

Above left – The octagonal hive

Things don’t always go well with Native Bees or anything with nature. Sometimes we have tragedies and we can learn from them and make changes.

I called this box Project Octahive. I built the box in 2015 and put bees in to it around a year later. Here’s the build article. The box has a large internal volume and was one of my strongest colonies being constantly very busy. I hadn’t touched the colony for two years and just let it go without paying too much attention to it. I always walked past it and there was a constant flow of air traffic which was great to see. One day i noticed it was motionless which was quite unusual. I watched it for a minute and no activity. I listened at the entrance and all was quiet inside.

I opened it to find the colony was dead! No living bees at all. All the internal structure, honey pots, pollen pots were all in tact and looked healthy. I pulled away some structure to find plenty of brood which looked ok, though it was possibly unmaintained for a couple of days and covered in honey. There was also honey dripping down through the colony pooling in the bottom box.

There was no sign of any pests, no grubs and no beetles. It was like it had just stopped.

In March this year – 2019 we had temperatures around 40 degrees c, plus the box was getting a fair amount of sun for the first half of the day so i’m guessing it just got too hot and the bees died. Stingless Bees can die at around 42 degrees c. It’s possible the hive reached 42 – 45.

I should’ve moved it backwards under the shade of the tree during Summer. I would normally move a hive out of the full sun in summer.

It’s possible that if the timber was thicker, or if the box was painted white it may have been able to handle the sun better but there’s no guarantee of that for this particular situation.

Plenty of brood left in the box

A bit of a sad moment for the end of the colony. The only thing to do was to clean it all out. I couldn’t believe how much honey was pouring out everywhere so i drained it in to a tray, collecting around 1.3 kg of honey. I also collected and washed a bucket full of Propolis which i can use for other projects.

1.3 kilos of honey harvested from the honey super
A few kilos of Propolis harvested from the box

I’ve cleaned out the box and left it outside for bees to collect propolis from. I’ve seen plenty of European Honey Bees, Stingless Bees and Resin Bees collecting from the open boxes.

I’ll sand the outside down, re-seal it with oil and put bees in to it again at some stage as structurally there’s nothing wrong with the box. Once sanded it will be back to new. It might even get a coat of paint.

Leave the empty box out for the benefit of other bees

I strained and put most of the honey in to a air tight flask and have left it on the kitchen bench with no refrigeration. Dean Haley has talked about this method of honey fermentation. I’ve had this going for three months now, once a week i open the flask to release any built up gas and do a taste test, it tastes pretty good to me.

Flask full of Stingless Bee honey