I have always promised to tell the truth. The good, the bad and the ugly. This one was both bad and ugly.
There is just no other way to say it…
Our bees died this past winter.
We aren’t really certain what happened, but we have a few ideas.
First and foremost, we weren’t at the homestead to see the first of the dead bees piling up on the ground in front of the hive. When we were able to get back up to the homestead, it was already too late. They were all dead. When I saw all the bees piled up I had a feeling of dread, but I also knew that some bees die, even during winter, and it is normal for the dead bodies to get kicked “to the curb”. I didn’t want to open the hive if I didn’t have to, because that would expose the bees (if they were alive) to the cold, so I put my ear to the hive to hear that comforting, reassuring hummmmmmm. I didn’t hear it.
When we opened the hive we saw that there was a lot of capped honey, a lot of uncapped honey, and a lot of dead bees inside clinging to the comb, the walls and on the floor. Not much brood, but that’s normal. Hmmm………
It wasn’t wet inside, although there was some mold growing on the outside, especially around the entrance and where the bees were piled up at the door, so apparently mold wasn’t the problem.
Then we found the queen. She must have been one of the last of the bees to die, because she was at the top of the pile on the floor in the middle of the hive. So, the problem wasn’t due to a queenless hive.
What we did find was some of the bees head first into the comb, with their little bee butts sticking out. In fact, there were at least two dozen that we found that way. That was our first clue as to what may have gone wrong. When I did some research on the internet about what will kill bees during the winter, bees head first into the comb reveals that they may have starved to death. Starved to death? With all that honey still in the comb?
Why? Because they couldn’t get to the honey! You see, the worker bees all cluster around the queen on cold days and flap their wings to warm up the small area around the queen, between two combs. The bees will not leave their queen and the queen will not likely leave the area of the brood, and so if there is no honey to be had in that small area, the bees will starve. Ones that do venture out of the small warming zone to find honey get too cold and die, right then and there head first in the comb!
We live in an area of the country that rarely sees temperatures below 25 degrees Fahrenheit! A lot of beehives survive temperatures much colder! What happened?
Well… I guess that was our fault, being beekeeper rookies.
When we first got our bees we did a lot of research and read several books about top bar beekeeping, and learned that if a colony of bees thinks their hive box is too small, they will swarm to find a bigger home. That’s not good. We read that to prevent bees from swarming a hive they might think is too small, you have to show them that there is a lot of room in the hive to keep the colony growing, by moving some of the top bars around. So, in early fall, during another small honey flow, we moved three of the combs full of honey toward the back of the hive and put three empty top bars in their place, not all in a row but spaced out within the hive. Our mistake was not making sure that the center of the hive, where the brood comb usually is and where the queen usually stays, stayed clustered together.
We also neglected to pack the empty space at the back of the hive in preparation for winter. Why is this important? So there is very little empty space within the hive during the winter and the bees don’t have to work so hard by flapping their wings to keep the queen and themselves warm.
Who knew? Unfortunately, we didn’t. Live and learn. I actually felt so guilty about killing our bees that I cried.
But, after the first shock of our disappointment, we realized there was still a lot of honey in the hive. We knew the capped honey in the comb would be fine. The problem was that there was still larvae (baby bees) in some of the comb, and although the weather had been pretty cold, they may have started to get moldy. Eeeeeewwwwwww.
What we did was harvest most of the comb and separated it into comb with capped honey only and then comb with some brood along with the capped honey. We also saved four bars that had just comb with some capped honey and put it in the freezer, to help jump-start the next hive.
I first extracted the capped honey and got almost four pints. The honey extracted that had some brood in it (I cut out the comb with brood) gave us two quarts. I have been using
this honey for baking and it is absolutely delicious! We ended up wasting some of the honey because I was too squeemish to have dead bee pulp in my honey, and a lot of the uncapped honey was just washed out of the comb. Later I found out that the uncapped honey is perfect for making mead. You learn something new every day!
So, we need to do some more reading and research, consult with our favorite beekeeper Kim (she lost a few hives this past winter also) and carry on.
All was not lost. Yes, we were upset we had lost (killed) our hive, but we learned more about beekeeping and we got some delicious honey. It’s always good to look at the bright side.
Where the party’s at:
Thank Goodness It’s Monday; Clever Chicks Blog Hop; Grand Social; Mix It Up Monday; Create, Link, Inspire; Amaze Me Monday, Motivation Monday; Homemaking Mondays; Show & Share Tuesday; The Gathering Spot; Tuesday Garden Party; Brag About It; Tuesdays with a Twist;The Scoop; Two Cup Tuesday; Tweak It Tuesday; Inspire Me Tuesdays; Tuesdays at Our Home; Lou Lou Girls; Party In Your PJ’s; You’re Gonna Love It Make, Bake and Create; Wicked Awesome Wednesday; Wined Down Wednesday; Wake Up Wednesday; Fluster’s Creative Muster; Homestead Blog Hop; Wow Us Wednesday; Wonderful Wednesday Our Simple Homestead; Share Your Cup Thursday; Home and Garden Thursday; The Handmade Hangout; Create it Thursday; Think Tank Thursday; Homemaking Party; Treasure Hunt Thursday; This Is How We Roll; Inspire or be Inspired; Inspiration Gallery; No Rules Weekend Party Freedom Fridays; Friendship Friday; From The Farm Blog Hop; Friday Flash Blog Party; Weekend re-Treat;Family Fun Friday; Friday’s Five Features; Real Food Fridays; Show Off Friday; Craft Frenzy Friday; Awesome Life Friday Simply Natural Saturdays; Saturday Sparks; My Favorite Things; Dare to Share; Scraptastic Saturday;Share It One More Time That DIY Party; DIY Sunday Showcase; Snickerdoodle Sunday; Best of the Blogosphere; Small Victories Sunday