I managed to visit all but one of my outyards this weekend even though my schedule really didn’t allow for it. Sometimes you have to push the issue to make things happen. Mostly good news for the apiary this winter so far. I did find one dead out in Henry’s outyard. To my surprise it was the 3 deep extra strong colony that didn’t make it through. The cluster was very small with the queen in the center. She is the bee with the least hairy thorax in the top center of the cluster in the second picture Probably about half the size of my fist.
I knew as soon as I opened the telescoping cover that I had a problem. The candy board had not been touched. I put my ear to the hive no sound. I knocked on the hive also with no reply. Then I proceeded to remove the top hive body. It was still heavy with honey stores. I could see the cluster nestled up near the top of a frame in the box below. No motion what so ever. I’m going to say that they died out officially sometime mid January during the last cold snap. For some reason the cold must have snuck in and they had to cluster in a place where there was no honey. It probably didn’t take long for that colony to die out with several days below freezing or colder. Without fret or fear we move forward. This was one out of 6 colonies that I checked on this weekend with one colony to check left for another day.
There is always an amount of wonder when you stumble across this situation from a colony that was so strong going into winter. There were not enough bees left to send a sample in to Beltsville for diagnosis. Many will blame mites (there is always that chance). I tend to not try to jump the gun, there are to many variables to consider. Since I didn’t have a chance to do any mite counts this year I don’t know if their mite load was high, low, or otherwise. I suppose this is a lesson/reminder that I have a responsibility to be more thorough in the future.
Now the question remains, what to do with the left over honey? Ideally I would freeze the frames and use them for splits in the spring. We just bought a whole hog and there is no room in the freezer. I’m thinking I will have to extract just to make storage easier then I could feed it back to the bees in the spring. There is also a side of me that wants to try my hand at making mead. Since I don’t treat the honey is safe to consume. What would you do with it? I’d love to have your suggestions.
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Thanks Again, Brian