I’m not exactly a beekeeper yet, but… Is this as unhealthy as it looks?
(Taken at an educational wildlife park.)
The comb itself looks great; that’s nice honeycomb, and the color variation is natural (not mold or anything).
Given that there’s no brood, I’m willing to bet that this is not an actual hive. A lot of the viewing hives like this are actually just frames pulled from another, larger hive, and placed in the viewing hive for a few days to a week, then replaced. Some beekeepers near me do that for farmer’s markets. And, that amount of burr comb (the comb outside the frame) could be built in a day or two, tops.
I’d be willing to bet that the lack of bees and the allowance of ants is due to the fact that these are pulled frames for viewing, not a full hive, and that they are honey frames, not brood frames – so almost all the bees are foragers, and away from the frames during the day. Some of them probably also drifted back to their home hive. I’d be willing to bet that this is just a viewing hive. No one keeps one-frame-wide hives, the bees can’t keep it warm if it drops into the 50s.
These are repopulation projects, not productive – they’re not harvested for human consumption, and they’re kept inside heated buildings (with direct exterior access via pipes) and protected from extreme weather. I honestly don’t know how it’s administered backstage, but my understanding is that they’re trying to maintain a safe colony that they can deliberately encourage to swarm and establish new wild hives.
Huh, that’s… weird. I’ve never heard of that before. It seems like a very strange initiative, given that honeybees are not native to North America.
If that’s the case, I suspect that this is not a hive that will do well, either on the survival axis or the swarm axis. A hive that small can only throw small swarms, which have a very low chance of survival. And, they’re going to have trouble collecting enough honey to survive the long winter, unless the beekeepers are planning on feeding them through the winter.
There are a few examples of full colonies kept indoors throughout the year, but unless they are much larger they usually don’t do so well. The ambient and constant light from indoors will disturb them and throw off their day/night cycle. That will confuse foragers and possibly cause them to abscond. I’ve looked in to keeping a colony inside as a show hive but it’s not usually benefitial to the bees so I’ve chosen to just keep them outside in full hives.
If this is the full colony, I’d guess that the people in charge of this project are not beekeepers or are just “showing off” their bees here and keeping the real colonies elsewhere. A hive left on its own outdoors will fare much better and produce more swarms than a hive kept inside.