I do not know what caused it yet, but I am relatively sure at least one hive has expired. 1001 was one of my first two colonies. I bought it as an established hive from a beekeeper that was going out of business. It had been on the previous owner’s program of yearly requeening, massive doses of sugar syrup and chemicals treatments to kill nosema and varroa. How did I make this determination? This seems like a long and tortuous story, but bear with me and I will get to the point.
First some background information: The winter of 2012-2013 was a first. After being involved with several cutouts last summer I was having second thoughts about making things too easy on my bees over the winter. In all previous years I had converted swarm traps into attic boxes every fall. I did this with the idea that I wanted ALL of my colonies to overwinter. Some of the cutout observations made me change my tune to wanting only the most robust and healthy hives to overwinter. This will not only get rid of my inferior genetics, but free up boxes for 2013’s swarms.
The cutout from 7/28/12, was a major factor in my changing view. I featured it in the post Saturday Morning Cutout. This hive was located in the North-West corner of a house that had been abandoned for 25-30 years. It is very flat here and during the winter the North and West winds can be brutal. The space that the hive occupied was approximately 15″ x 4″ x 10 FEET. Only about 3 feet at the bottom was left for brood and other hive activities. The rest all the way up to the top was filled with capped honey. The only thing between the bees and the outside air was some very dilapidated wood siding that was riddled with holes. The house had some insulation between some of the studs but NOT in this corner cavity. The bees living here were a little ill tempered, but definitely had what it took to survive. These are precisely the type of bees that I want living in my hives, good honey producers that don’t need a beekeeper around in order to survive.
I had initially hoped for more time last fall to do a proper trial of overwintering techniques when writing What to do. Due to time constraints and last years mold problems I decided that instead of the attic boxes all hives would get one of my top-entrance inner covers. All hives were provided with one form of winter protection. I made sure they at least had some form of windbreak from the North and West, but beyond that they were going to be on their own.
I was passing by a place with three hives on it on 3/7/13. I had a lot to get done that day so I didn’t get a chance to do anything more than snap a couple pictures and place my ear next to the hives for a listen. At the time humming was audible from only two of the hives. It wasn’t until I got home and looked at the pictures that I made an amazing observation. The uninsulated inner covers gave away a secret as to what was going on inside.
On 3/7 there was still some snow around. The two hives that were humming, 1005 and 1208 showed obvious snow melt. The silent hive, 1001 had a nice pile of snow on top. I theorize that heat generated by the surviving colonies melted the snow on top since there was no insulation. I don’t know if anyone else will even find it interesting, but I did. We pharmacists are a nerdy bunch. It is too early to determine if this method of overwintering was a good idea or not. The fate of more hives will need to be determined…. more on that in late April.
Once the weather breaks and I have a day off I will break 1001 apart and attempt to diagnose the problem. Until then I will just have to wonder.
What do you think?