Counting Winter Losses (Already)

I wanted to check on the bees in the backyard hives since it's been a few weeks, to see if they needed any attention.

Back in December I gave them each a bag of sugar mush in case they needed it and I wasn't around.

I opened the white hive first, and the place was empty. There were a few frozen bees in the sugar mush bag, and I figured they strayed from the group to feed and froze.

I pulled the top deep, and looked at the bottom one, and saw lots of frozen bees scattered across the tops of the frames.

Hmm, this can't be good.

I pulled a few frames, and found where the cluster was, or what was left of the cluster.

In the fall this hive was really thriving with lots of brood, good young queen, plenty of stores, etc.,  but something must have happened to them because today the majority of their colony was expired on the screened bottom board, with only a a dozen or two bees remaining on the frames in a cluster.

I thought they might have run out of food, but there were several fully capped frames of honey right next to where they were clustering.


Seeing that there weren't hardly any bees head down into the cells tells me they didn't starve, they just plain didn't have enough bees to keep warm.

When I checked on the Pheonix hive, it had a small cluster of live bees on the top of the frames. So far they're hanging in there.

When I checked on the purple and white hive, my best performer the past two years, it also had a small cluster on top of the frames. So far so these guys are hanging in there too.

Their clusters are smaller than I'd like them to be, and we have plenty more harsh winter ahead.

As it is now, I have 2 remaining hives to finish over wintering.

Last year my backyard hives all made it through the winter, and I suppose I wasn't prepared to see one of them not make it this winter.

I pulled the deeps, cleaned them up and put them into storage to protect the wax and honey comb so they can be re-used in the spring.

Comments For This Post: (6) | Post Your Comments! Hide The Comment Form
Robin says...
Date:   January 7, 2013, 5:01 am

Ouch.   I'm sorry to hear about your lost hive.  We're getting warmer temps this week and I'm planning on going up to thump the hives and drop in some sugar.  Fingers crossed. 

Holly says...
Date:   January 7, 2013, 10:24 am

My first year of beekeeping I lost both hives and it was devastating.  This year I have a really small colony with a hive that is only half filled with wax and capped honey because I started with no wax on the frames and my queen failed in June.  I hefted mine recently and it felt too light, but then again, half of the frames are void of wax and honey.  I filled the feeder but they aren't taking any syrup because the temps are too cold for them to break away from the cluster.  I hear we are supposed to have temps in the upper 50's this week so hopefully the bees will start to consume the syrup...but the high temps aren't good for tapping maple syrup.  It's a toss up when we are completely at the mercy of the weather.  The temps might be good for one species but not another.

Mark Martin says...
Date:   January 7, 2013, 2:22 pm

Lame Chris!  That is a huge bummer  =(

What was the temperature when you checked them?  I'm just curious how low you would go before deciding not to do a quick peek?

I checked my two hives the other day by inspecting the foam board on the bottom board pull out tray.  I was able to see where the bees were clustering just by the three lines of debris on the foam board.  Based on that I knew they were on the right hand side of the hive and I gave a couple knocks on that side of the hive and a nice buzz returned my greeting.

I tried the same thing on my other hive that had four lines of debris and I had no returning buzz from the hive.  I cleaned off both foam boards and I will check them in a few days to see if there is any new debris on them.

Chris (Show Me The Honey) says...
Date:   January 7, 2013, 2:37 pm

Mark - I like your idea about monitoring the debris fall during winter!

It was in the low to mid 40*F temp range when I checked on them yesterday. I didn't pull any frames, I just opened the cover long enough to see live bees clustering around the top bars (of the two remaining hives) and then I closed them back up.

Andy says...
Date:   January 9, 2013, 6:18 am

Did you do a mite count or treat for mites at any point last summer or fall?

Chris (Show Me The Honey) says...
Date:   January 9, 2013, 8:05 am

Good question Andy - The mite counts in the hives last year were, in general, moderate to moderate-high. Our local beekeeping club discussed this possibility earlier in the spring and noted that due to the previous winter being so warm, that the mite loads were probably going to be higher.

I used a powder sugar dusting once a week to help knock down mites. The sticky boards were showing a decent amount of mites being dropped when I dusted them so I kept at it.

This hive acted weird all season with them going queen-less during the summer and then their inability to raise a replacement on the first try.

I just hope this winter get's cold enough to help eliminate some of the mites, although as I write this it's the second week of January and the 5 day forecast calls for 60*F weather.

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