Our ‘cottage’ hives are going strong despite the set back from us putting sugar syrup on way too early (a few days later it went down to -17C; wonder what the effects were on the sugar and whether the freezing point dropped with such a concentration of sugar:water 1:1?). But now that the temperature is creeping back up our home hives are buzzing away with spring anticipation!
The weather was gorgeous yesterday, sunny, bright and a warm breeze to boot! Yet it lasted just long enough to move the hay away and let the girls get oriented. (If you recall, we insulated our hives with tar paper, upper entrance, candy board with a pollen patty in the centre, box feeder with cedar wood chops to insulate, bales of hay and glorious amounts of snow). These two hives along the escarpment are well. We will have to watch closely for swarming …
‘Joe’s bees’ as we call the lavender field hive, are another story.
As we climbed the steep, slippery slope, dropping things along the way, we were greeted by M’s bees buzzing happily. Yet no one dared show themselves from our hive. So all suited up, we got the smoker ready and started to open our hive. The upper entrance was a bit messy, as if our girls never ventured out but hung their abdomens over the edge to poop – like when you are canoeing, although not as messy as we thought though after M messaged me. Yet it took us cracking the inner lid, insulation box, the candy board and tearing off the tar paper before anyone came to investigate what we were up to. Well it is certainly a sad day for this hive. Splashes of poop on the inner cover hole, nothing eaten from the candy board, and the top brood box full … Full of honey frames and hundreds of bees dead inside the comb. A bittersweet death as their abdomens poked out as if they were eating sweet honey and freezing in place.
So frame after frame, and cluster after cluster of dead bees we cleaned up their hive of the dead and reduced them to one brood box. Dan worked on the bottom, empty box, i started looking for a regal sign. They certainly polished off the frames in the lower brood box, but all the developing brood is dead and likely the queen as evidenced by a queen cell on the side of a brood frame. Emergency!! I dare say. We think based in where the hive is located that although we had a windbreak, it was just too cold. We had a feeling it might happen. Unlike our hives at home that sit in full sunlight and get very little wind even with hay walls, anytime we visited this winter to see if they were standing, joe’s bees sat in the shade under the pines and did not have much snow around for insulation. The location seemed more of a wind tunnel. M’s hive was very nicely protected by ours (she had a bee cozy).
Our bees experienced a bittersweet death as their frozen abdomens poked out of cells while trying to gather sweet honey and pollen.
And the bottom board is littered with writhing bodies. Our poor girls.
They did not touch the candy board – not even a little. So while we were cleaning, and me, frantic to find their emergency queen, I noticed some bees landed on the exposed pollen patty. So I made sure there were holes in the bottom of that screen board so when we replaced it they could crawl up to get some food.
Well, down to searching frame 9 of the upper brood box and after being sting on my lower back and bottom, I was overjoyed to find a queen. Thank goodness! Quickly into her cage she went and we gave them the best of the honey and tried to find a brood frame to get her to lay in (we hope they clear out their dead, many frames had mold). She moved quite slowly, as everyone else, but eventually her court started to cluster around her. My poor ladies. Certainly not enough live bees to take a sample for testing – dead will have to do. I am going to send for testing with OMAFRA look for trachial mites, virus, nosema, etc …
Only a few mites spotted but they are there nonetheless; spots of mold where dead bees were are now cleared away.
In all we cleaned bottom board, one brood box, cleaned off as many dead as we could manage without destroying comb, brood frames in the middle, candy board with hole to get to pollen patty, inner winter cover, insulating box, outer lid, rearranged straw and packed it around. Now no tar paper so I will definitely need to get a bee cozy (think tea cozy for hive) for this location. Will wool blankets work? I have some great red trappers at home.
We do not expect this hive to survive but we hope we can help it along and maybe increase their chance of survival.
So what are our options now? We’d love to hear what you’d do in this situation.
– hope they will recover with less space and the cleanup
– emg tea cozy for extra warmth (its Easter weekend, everything is closed, will try wool blankeys)
– Merge box with strong ‘cottage bees’ box
– test for nosema and mites and trt as required
Please post your suggestions below! M? …