Friday, March 25, 2016
Today was a perfect day to pickup the two Winter deadout hives I had and take them to the deck off the house where I usually perform my hive autopsy and see what's still usable, what may have happened and what needs repaired. It was pretty cold last night with frost warnings and over cast all morning which kept the sun from heating up the other hives so I didn't have a lot of robbing bees to deal with.
I can't be certain but I am pretty sure both hives suffered from queen failure of some sort. I am certain that neither hive starved though because I did not find the tell-tale ball of bees with their bodies stuck in the comb head first that happens when a hive starves.
The hive up at the garden area was pretty messed up from all the robbing they been going through lately but I did not find any signs of pests or even a lot of bees. There was obviously a LOT of honey left in this hive when it died out which tells me that for some reason it just failed to produce new brood to keep it going. If I had to guess I would say the queen died some how, maybe I killed her during the last honey pull by accident and the hive simply dwindled away.
The second hive from the back of the pasture apiary was so clean inside it was almost like a model or Hollywood set. Almost no dead bees inside, no signs of robbing and empty clean cells. There were some cells filled with pollen though.
Several of the frames from the honey super I leave on for Winter were drawn out with new comb that didn't look like it had been used. I put all the honey frames into Tupperware tubs for use when I harvest honey but I like to leave a wet super full of frames on each hive for Winter.
These 7 gallon Tupperware tubs are great. They hold 9 surplus frames which is what I run per super and I can then seal em up to keep vermin out. They also stack nicely when I freeze the frames to kill any parasites.
Inside the second hive I found an abundance of queen cups, replacement cups, emergency cups and swarm cups.
Replacement cups are usually at the top of a frame (above pic) while swarm cups or cells are at the bottom (below) of the frames. Emergency cells are usually in the middle somewhere.
I am pretty certain this hive swarmed and something happened to the new queen. Either she didn't mate properly or something and they tried to replace her but had no viable larva to do it. This hive then dwindled like the first one but died out much earlier in late Fall or Winter after they survivors licked the last of the remaining honey up. Like the first hive this one had very few dead bee bodies and none stuck head-first in the cells so my bet is they were still able to fly when they dwindled.
A couple of other interesting tidbits about the second hive. It was one of my oldest producing hives. I captured it as a swarm during the Spring of 2012 but the only old comb I had to bait the trap with was an old frame from a surplus super. By the time I got the swarm out of the trap and hived up they had built a bunch of comb off the bottom of this old frame so I left it in as a brood frame.
You can see the comb was still there and usable hanging from the bottom of the old frame. As dark as it is they were obviously using this as brood cells.
Another interesting thing was I got to really examine the beetle traps I put inside the hives. I had been noticing that while the traps appear to work well at first the bees tended to want to close em up and trap the beetles inside even though they were already dead from drowning in the oil.
I ordered a couple hundred of these little traps a few years back but it's pretty obvious I need to change em out more often as this one had about a dozen dead beetles inside but had been sealed at the top with propolis so it no longer worked.
While I hate to lose two hives both had woodenware and frames in excellent shape and a lot of drawn comb to help any new swarms I catch this year get a jump start. One brood box needs a new coat of paint but that's about it. As it turns out I have six younger hives that should be jumping into production mode this year so 2016 should still show a net increase in honey harvesting regardless of the losses.
Two hives out of sixteen is still far better than the 20 -30% losses which is reported to be the North American average so I must be doing something right.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!!!