So frustrating. We thought we had three active hives and would have to divide all three which would give us six hives. All three hives had bees carrying in pollen, a sign of brood feeding, but when we checked the middle box today there was no brood -- not a bit. So the bees we've seen coming and going must be robber bees. Darn! There were no dead bees so apparently this hive absconded late in the fall. There was lots of capped honey but most likely it's sugar water from feeding so we took the hive down and brought it inside after dark. We'll freeze those full frames and use them for feeding next fall. But what a disappointment!
We went to the bee store yesterday and spent over $400 with the expectation of six hives and enough boxes for four on each hive. Now we'll be doing well to end up with five. We could take some of the new gear back but the bee store is an hour and half away and being optimists we will just keep our fingers crossed and hope we end up with a successful season. We always joke about how this is the most expensive free honey you'll ever get. We've been beekeeping since 2013 and I don't think we've broken even yet. But as hobbies go, it certainly isn't the most expensive thing we could choose.
At least the hive that absconded had an older queen. She was from 2015 and the two left are 2016 girls. So our status now is two queen-right hive and one queenless hive that is hopefully raising a new queen. We sure don't want that hive to give us laying workers, but they had plenty of fresh eggs to raise a queen so we'll presume the best and maybe check in another week to make sure we have queen cells. We'd rather let the bees raise a queen than buy one. Although our bees are probably hybrids now, they originally came from Russian bees and they are notorious for being reluctant to accept an outsider.
Anyone, one lesson learned. Before you buy equipment based on presumptions about your hives, check them all out!