The beetles are a big issue, and I'm not sure what came first, but our next two issues were the most devastating. A swarm of robber bees came(several times apparently because I see them come back almost every day) and took everything that my little hives made. It took me a while to figure out that this was going on at the same time as the population drop in the hives. These robber bees just swooped in and completely cleaned our hives out of all their honey and pollen stores. Then soon after I began noticing that the numbers of bees began dropping. Our strong hive dwindled down to only a few hundred bees and it seemed like the queen was gone. The other hive still seemed to be strong, but the bees hanging out in front seemed to be quite a few less and upon inspection, they seemed to have either lost their queen also or they just decided to abscond. Basically looking at their losses and hive issues the queen took most of the bees and went to find better accommodations.
My neighbor tried to help out with some brood frames from his bees last week. We went through a couple of his hives and took off some of his honey frames. In the process of doing this the robber swarm that has been attacking my bees came after his hive too probably because it was open and they thought vulnerable. My neighbor's hives are really big and strong and were able to fight them off easily, but it made for an interesting inspection with bees flying everywhere...angry, fighting, aggressive bees. I got stung twice because of improper shoes...lesson learned.
This week, in order to try to save the hives, we have combined the two hives and I am in the process of replacing the queen. Hopefully in doing this, building the numbers and having a queen laying again, the hive can strengthen itself and have the ability to make it through the winter. We will then split the hives again and hope that they strengthened enough to make two strong hives for the year.
The robber bees are relentless. Sadly, I am pretty sure that we will be starting over with new bees in the Spring. I think at this point it will take a miracle to keep this hive going. In desperation, we have completely closed up the entrance to the hive in order to discourage the robber bees and keep them out. I have put an empty hive body on top of the inner lid of the hive and set up some sugar water and a bowl of water with rocks so that they have access to water while they are shut in. The outside of the hive is covered with the rogue bees desperately trying to get into the hive. they have pretty much cleaned out the hive for several weeks now and the bees that I have left have been completely wiped out of any possible honey and pollen stores for the winter.