Shortly after my last post I went to check on the hive at The Spring Gardens and they were doing well - I was actually surprised to see that. This was the hive that was really weak going into the winter and I had been feeding them honey all winter. A month later on a warm sunny day I went to check on that hive again and this time the news wasn't so good - no activity at all in front of the hive and when I looked inside, all of the bees were dead. They still had ample honey in there so they didn't starve. Being that there was no obvious sign of disease, the most likely explanation is that the colony was too small to maintain the proper temperature inside the hive. When a hive doesn't make it through the winter, beekeepers call it a "dead-out". I was pretty bummed but not totally surprised. Here are some pics -
This is the view when I opened the cover, big pile of dead bees -
After removing all the boxes, lots of dead bees -
I tried to find the queen in this mess but I couldn't. Dead queens can be soaked in alcohol to make "eau-du-queen" - basically a tincture that can be used to attract swarms or wild bees to an empty hive.
A few of the frames looked like this:
This pretty much confirms that the bees were too cold - they climb into the cells in order to try to get warm. All those little bee butts sticking out - a sad sight.
There is a silver lining to the loss of this hive. All of the comb - some of which contained honey and pollen - can be used when I set up my new hives (oh yeah, I am getting 4 new hives this spring!). The energy that this colony used to draw the honeycomb and collect nectar and pollen will not be totally wasted. Using this drawn comb in the new hives will save them time and energy - they will have a nice head start. The honey in these combs should also be enough so that I won't have to feed my new colonies any additional honey. So I cleaned out this hive and separated all of the comb into 3 groups - comb with honey, comb with pollen and empty drawn comb. Even the empty comb is helpful as it takes the bees significant time and energy to build the wax combs. Here is a great shot of the start of some empty comb -
In honor of the fallen bees, I decided to take one of the frames of honey and harvest it for the family. I used the simplest method for harvesting honey - crush and strain - pretty self-explanatory. Cut some comb, mash it up and strain it -
There was over one pound of honey in that frame and it was only partially full. And let me tell you, that honey is AWESOME tasting - so flavorful. Hopefully there will be lots more of that this year - so far the weather this spring is shaping up to be a much better year for honey than last year. We shall see...