As I write this I am excited to announce that the new hive is finally finished! It has only taken a few bruised thumbs, some ringing ears, a trusty hammer (and partner) and a lot of patience! 😊
I am also super duper excited to announce that a sunny day did finally arrive amongst the grey gloomy ones we have been having lately, and I was able to transfer the colony into the new hive. Complete with the trademark sticker too!
The job was actually super easy, especially as the colony was so much smaller after the winter period (only two seams of bees). In fact they were so small, I decided to only leave 8 frames for them and no super. This would allow them to use up less energy heating up the brood box to the whopping 37° Celsius for the new eggs to grow into lovely bees. Can you imagine trying to increase the temperature of your home by about 20° Celsius just by wiggling your arms around? Well, you and your 5,000 or so siblings…
The only downer of the whole operation was to see how many bees died over winter and were left inside the hive, too many for the few to carry out. 😔
The reason for the numerous dead bees could be one of many:
🍯 Lack of food – I know they were unable to store enough over winter, because I had to add a small block of fondant, which I also know they devoured before I could replace. So perhaps, I should have checked more often to make sure they don’t run out of fondant before I replace it. Rest assured I have added enough after transferring them to the new hive.
⚕️ Disease – I did not see signs of disease, but there could have been a silent killer spread through the remaining varroa…? Or perhaps nosema…? Although I did not see any dysyntry it’s not guaranteed that it is not present. (I can go through the process of testing for nosema at another time, also unpleasant if you love each and everyone of your buzzing creatures, but necessary if you want to confirm its presence or lack of…)
💧 Damp – Some of the frames I removed in the process showed signs of mould and damp in the bee bread cells. This is generally harmless unless it ends up on the bees themselves, especially if they get some fondant on them that they are unable to take off and in time gets mouldy. This is a prompt for the need of better ventilation or resistance to damp, which I hope the new hive will achieve as the old one had poor ventilation.
☀️ Warm weather – Do you guys remember the sweet yet short period of warm weather that we had here in the UK back in February and again in early March? While most of us quickly adjusted by shedding the layers of clothing on our backs, the bees had to adjust by permanently changing. Warm weather triggers winter bees to transform into summer bees in preparation for their foraging season; this is an irreversible transformation. One of the main differences between the two is the life span: winter bees live for 4-6 months while summer bees live for 4-6 weeks. You can therefore see how misleading warm weather could have resulted in a hive floor full of bees that literally died too soon…
As I share with you my thoughts on what happened in the black box that was my winter hive, do not feel sad or disappointed, nature seems harsh but is incredibly resilient and each one of these bees that survived will only be stronger and better in the next season (and hopefully the beekeeper more knowledgeable too). This is not the last we have seen of this hive, as not only did I spot the queen looking all healthy and broody, but have seen eggs laid, honey and pollen collected and in their usual manner, guard bees getting annoyed by the human interfering.
I guess I know what their “New Season’s Resolution” is, what about yours? What will you start doing different this spring? I hope it involves nature, flowers and lots of curiosity.