Sunday, March 25, 2012

75% Winter Survival

We had a bit of nice weather to look in the hives on Sunday and unfortunately confirmed two hive losses for the season.  Nuc A and the Frats are both gone.  These were the two hives that stood out in fall because they wouldn't take sugar syrup to store.  I gave them frames of honey and sugar from other hives going into winter in hopes of shoring them up.  Looking through a dead hive is quite a strange experience in that the hive appears frozen in time.  The only thing I can compare it to would be a sci-fi space movie where they find an abandoned space station and the crew is dead but preserved like the day they died by the vacuum of space.
  • Nuc A had several pounds of dry sugar but no honey or pollen left.  This hive had one of the combs I filled with dry sugar, and it had about 50% of the sugar left in the cells.  I'm guessing they couldn't get enough water to dissolve the sugar or didn't have enough bees to stay warm with their small cluster size since some of the cluster was on the sugar comb over sugar filled cells.  This hive failed sometime in February during the cold spell. 
  • The Frats were showing strong activity just a few weeks ago and it appears that they built up too fast and the recent cold snap cut them off from getting food.  There was no sugar or honey left on combs, just bees and brood they were trying to raise.  There was several pounds of sugar just on the other side of the follower board that they didn't touch due to the extended week of cold when they were clustered around the brood.  I suspect the increased activity I was seeing previously might have also been a sign of desperation.
The Librarians, Geeks, Nuc B and Nuc C all looked to be in good shape with some stores left.  Basing their status on what I saw on the last few frames I decided that all except the Librarians had less than 10 days of food reserves in place and wouldn't survive an extended period of time if they couldn't forage.  I started all hives on 1:1 sugar syrup.  The Librarians are being feed to prevent a robbing situation since the other hives will have an attractive food supply close by.  I am still concerned that Nuc C isn't on par with the other three, but it's too soon to tell what that means.  The difference is the other three are CA genetics, and Nuc C is local genetics.

Feeding now also aligns nicely with two big food sources and signs of spring.  The plums are finishing and cherries (fruiting) and dandelions are starting up this week (late for this time of year).


The girls are checking out the Oregon Grape at the park.  I saw a bumble bee as well.  Likely a queen looking for a home.

Red Current

Several bees have found some minerals (salts) in the base of the flower pot.  My sugar syrup mix has a touch of mineral salt in it so I'm curious if this stops now.

Entrance activity.  You can see the pollen coming in.

Close up.  The girls didn't seem to care if was holding a camera an inch from their entrance.

This tired girl didn't make it to the entrance hole and landed a bit lower.  Too exhausted to jump back into flight she proceeded to walk up the face of the hive.  I like this shot as she walks by a bolt which gives you a perspective of just how hard these girls work to bring back tiny amounts of food to make new bees and ultimately honey.

Hopefully April will be a good month and the girls will have good weather to collect the maple bloom.  This will be the first big flow of the year, but only if the weather allows for it.

- Jeff


  1. You have my sympathy on the two hives that didn't make it. Poor bees...I'm glad the Librarians and Queen Marcia are still ok. Hope they all make it through your strange spring weather. We have dandelions and fruit blossoms here as well. Spooky weather for Iowa.

    1. Thank you. I think everyone would like 100% success through winter, but if that happened there would be bee's everywhere. Ultimately it comes down to the bees that are the best suited to the mild & wet northwest winters surviving and passing on their genetics to the next generation. Several beekeepers around here are reporting around 40% losses this year. Since I plan to keep raising my own queens I'm hoping to get to a point where I have better adapted bees that take less resources to keep alive from year to year