Winter Deaths

Today was a wonderfully warm January. High 40s. As we were loading up the car to go somewhere, I noticed that the bees were out, so I jumped over to take a quick look. Lots of activity off Hive 1! I’d guess a good 25 bees on the front porch and another 25 or so in the air. They looked good and healthy. However, there wasn’t a soul flying out of Hive 2 or 3.

I popped the outer cover on Hive 3 first, and there was no movement visible through the inner cover. I pulled off the inner cover at that point, and yep. Dead. The same was true for Hive 2.

Thinking back, Hive 2 has always been an interesting hive. It came into the winter weak and disorganized, and I knew it. This was a queen that I haven’t liked since the beginning (split off of the old Hive 5), and I’m not sorry to see this hive go. For Hive 3, however, I was surprised. This was the hive that I had so much trouble with last year trying to get them to respond and grow in an organized manner. At one point, I thought it was a queenless hive, which was disproved after some experimentation. At one point, it was the biggest hive I’ve ever worked with with a brood chamber spanning two full deeps AND two full mediums. It went into the winter super strong and well prepped, and I expected it would survive just fine.

But even with all that, I’ve hated that queen. She’s super heavy on the propolis, and she’s very disorganized in her laying patterns. I also suspect there was a very real varroa problem in the hive. So I guess I’m not sad to see her gone either, though I would have liked to have had the chance to replace that queen instead of losing the colony outright.

And just as a note, no, I don’t suspect CCD. I saw plenty of bodies, and Hive 2 looked like they may have starved out, though I didn’t dig deep enough to know for sure and won’t until another day. Hive 3… not sure yet. I’ll root around in there when I look at Hive 2 closer.

So for the coming year… Hive 1 is great, and I suspect they’ll handle the balance of the winter just fine. I want to go into this new year with at least two hives, and I really like the queen in Hive 1. I’m debating splitting her into Hive 2 and letting the remaining bees raise a new queen from the same line. At the same time, I’m getting a little tired of the constant replacements killing my honey harvest in the fall. I’m considering getting either one or two packages to go back up to two or three hives. I’m mostly on my own this summer unlike past years, though there is a friend who has talked about helping off and on, but even then, it takes a certain amount of experience before help is truly help (not that I’m complaining about training someone; I’m just considering what makes the most sense for this summer). I’m also still considering my goal of being cost neutral. One package I could take without having to do too much selling, which I’m done doing on a proactive level. But two? Not sure.

Ah well… Either way, it was nice to see the girls again. I’m looking forward to any early March visit.

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