With the first sunshine it seems for ages, I visited the hives to check the fondant levels. All hives were strong, except one. Bees were on fondant and I also saw a few bees coming in with orange and yellow pollen. Unfortunately one hive was dead. A week ago this hive seemed strong and was feeding on the fondant. But the last week has seen bitter raw easterly winds and though in same location as other hives this one didn’t survive.
Breaking up the hive, once I knew I had lost them, I saw many dead bees on the mesh floor. Some frames had sealed brood and surrounding the brood were bees, their heads firmly set inside cells. This to me is an indication of starvation, with the bees heads deep in cells searching for food. See photo.
Why were they searching for food ? Only 2 inches above them was a full super of honey, near on 20lbs of honey I had left on the hive. And above that was a good lump of fondant. Only a week ago they were eating the fondant, so can only guess that with the cold weather the cluster moved down deeper into the hive and wouldn’t/couldn’t move up to feed themselves.
But why had bees in other hives in same location moved up on to the fondant ? Bees are high intelligent but at times totally stupid. Baffling !!
Hopefully this is the last week of cold easterlies and forecast is for 13-15c temperatures next week. About time as spring is a month late now. Only hope remaining colonies survive this week and warmer weather will give them a good kick start.
I have heard reports of many losses during this winter, starvation being a prime reason. At least I don’t feel guilty that I didn’t give them a chance, as I left plenty of honey in place and have placed over 3kg of fondant per hive this winter.
Roll on spring !!
With this cold snap of hard frosts and snow it is an ideal time to move any bee hives. 5 of my hives were in my garden at the cottage, having recently moved 200 yards down the driveway and rented out the cottage, I wanted to move them as the new people in the cottage now have use of the garden and large lawn. As my new garden is to be totally re-done in spring and therefore at present not ready for the hives. I thought it would be good to move them to the edge of an Oil Seed Rape field.
With the help of Andrew and Jason on the farm, we rachet strapped each hive, gaffer taping the entrances and lifted them on to a low flat bed trailor. Slowly driving them through the farm, we placed them on a grass margin alongside a 55 acre OSR field. The hives have a wood behind them to protect them from cold northerly winds and a dyke for their water supply. Andrew who does the spraying on the farm, said he would inform me in advance of any spraying of the OSR. If he can, he will spray early morning before bees are out or I can seal hives the evening before and then re-open a few hours after crop has been sprayed. The hives have 10+ yards of pheasant cover in front of them, so this will help with any spray drift as it grows to about 4 feet high.
In winter, the rule: moving 3ft or 3miles – nothing in between does not apply. I have kept an eye on these hives and the bees have not left them for over a week due to the weather. So orientation for the bees is not a problem, so moving them now was an ideal time. The move went smoothly on a beautiful sunny crisp morning. I had built a new double hive stand and we placed 2 of the hives on to this. I do like hives on high stands, one it is good for ventilation and two: good for my back.
Selection of photos of the move