What Causes Absconding (when Bees Leave the Hive)?

By Howland Blackiston, Unknown

Absconding is a cruel blow when it happens. One day, you go to the hive and find that no one’s at home. Every last bee (or nearly every bee) has packed up and left town. What a horror! Here are some of the typical causes of absconding:

  • Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD): This relatively new phenomenon has devastated honey bee colonies around the world. One day the bees are gone with no evidence as to why. The causes are not yet known for ­certain, but the problem is being vigorously studied.

  • Lack of food: Make sure that your hive has an ample supply of honey. Feed your bees sugar syrup when their honey stores are dangerously low (less than two frames of capped honey) and during serious dearth of nectar.

  • Loss of queen: This situation eventually results in a hive with no brood. Always look for evidence of a queen when you inspect your bees. Look for eggs!

  • Uncomfortable living conditions: Make sure that the hive is situated where it doesn’t get too hot or too wet. Overheated or overly wet hives make life unbearable for the colony. Provide ample ventilation and tip the hive forward for good drainage.

  • Itty-bitty (or not so itty-bitty) pests: Some hives (particularly weak ones) can become overrun with other insects, such as ants, or hive beetles. Even persistent raids from wildlife (skunks, raccoons, and bears, for example) can make life miserable for the bees.

  • Mites and disease: Colonies that are infested with mites or have succumbed to disease may give up and leave town. Take steps to prevent such problems, and medicate your bees when the situation demands.