It's hard to write about failure sometimes – but it is entirely necessary. Out hives have had a difficult time this spring as the weather has been so patchy. Come early July, when we would expect the honey to start flowing the stores were low and it seemed obvious the hives needed feeding.
We piled in with sugar syrup and rapid feeders on all three hives. Two of them drank greedily, and well; the other barely took a drop despite us trying to encourage the occupants by dripping the solution down through the hive. Initially we assumed this was because they were finding food elsewhere. Then a few dead bees appears, followed by an irretrievable population crash.
That was straight out our fault. We should have realised the situation earlier. I'm also not totally convinced on the 'rapid feeders'. Since then we've continued to feed the others for a week or so with an Ashforth feeder – to me that seems to give better access to the whole hive. But again the feeders were not to blame.
Anyway – lesson learned. There was absolutely no disease in the hive – just hunger. Yesterday I had the rather sad job of cleaning out a dead hive including a lot of unhatched brood and half-emerged bees. That isn't a job I ever want to do again.