Sunday, August 5, 2012

Dead bees over winter -- Yes we killed our first hive!

April 2012
Nearing winter now. The club hives have had to be feed to keep them alive. But our hives are still bringing in pollen and nectar. That's because there are in town with lots of trees and peoples gardens. The variant means as long as the weather is not continuously cold the bees are happy. Since the hives are in our yard we check actively almost daily, when it came time to treating I took off all the honey boxes to avoid contamination from the treatment. We made sure that there was some empty comb in case the nectar was still coming and we had some full honey frame for feeding. Two of the hives were strong and had a lot of bees so I put an empty honey box on, without any frames, just so that they would not over heat. 6 weeks later and both empty boxes were absolutely chocker with newly made comb, all capped. Attached to the top board right down to the top of the frames in the bottom brood box.

Not only that but the comb was chocker full of capped honey! Incredible when there was not supposed to be any nectar source. The hive next to these was smaller and we had left it with some space and only the brood box. On inspection this hive had not eaten supplies but had not increased the honey either!

Must be all down to a different type of bee in these 2 hives from the other 2 hives. Both strong hives came from the same queen stock. I'll be breeding off this queen next year.

Now what to do with this unframe honey. I had to break up the full box of comb honey to get to the bottom box. When I finished I put all the broken pieces of capped honey on a tray to get robbed down into a new box of drawn out frames.

Tasting this honey was an experience. It had a very bitter after taste. This could have been Apistan, but it was more likely to be dandelion. The dandelion honey was all crystallised.

July 2012

I had periodically gone out in our finest days throughout the winter to cut up the remaining dandelion honey so that the bees could get it and rob it down below. All the hives were busy with pollen most days in winter.

One day I went out to visit the hives in the morning, as I normally do, and I saw that all the hives except one were busy with activity. Someone (my wife, Jane, will not be mentioned of course ;-), someone had got in the mood to melt down all the wax from last season and decided to take the dandelion honey boxes off. Thinking that all the honey had been robbed down below.

This was true of one hive, but the other one had been eating the honey directly from the top box and not storing it in the frames below. The bees had not had any honey for 3 days. When we looked into the hive there were dead bees everywhere. Only a little wing movement from 10 or so bees. Oh dear, the realisation that we killed the hive was a bit heart rendering.  Nearly every cell had a bee stuck in head first. We made up some sugar-syrup and poured this over all the bees on all the frames. I did not expect anything except the neighbouring hive to rob this dead hive. And this they did so I blocked up the entrance.

But the next day we had 2 frames of normal looking bees. When I unblocked the entrance bee boiled out for a while (the robber wanted out). A little later the bees were busy taking out dead bees one by one. 90% of the hive was dead. We found a "happy" queen and enough bees to say that the hive is functioning ok.

The next week I collected several scoops of dead bees and clean up the hive. Soon all will be forgotten...if our on very experienced queen start breeding again. :-)

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