February 19th was a glorious day to get out and engage in some low-level outdoor recreation. It reached about 50 degrees F with sun and no breeze. There was about 2 feet of snow on the ground from the storm a the start of the week, but the roads were clear. So we could get where we wanted to go and enjoy the paradox of warm winter weather.
We chose to check the bees as our family activity. From a bee-keeping class long ago I remember the rule, "Give the bees something sweet for valentines day" - which is a reminder that on some warm day in February you should check how the colonies are doing and pour sugar on the top of the inner cover in case they are running low on their stored winter honey.
|Colony C, The last survivors|
... The good news is that not all of the colonies had died... The bad news is there is only one surviving hive remaining. Yep.
At honey harvest time we had 17 colonies. When we winerized the hives in November we were down to 10. This is an unusual amount of mortality, but five of the colonies were at a new location that we think was a bad place to locate the hives. Looking back at our records, there was a warm day in early January and all was well when we checked then (say, January 2nd). Now we are down to one hive, which is very depressing.
Reasons bees die in the winter. Things to ponder:
- Too cold and they freeze to death
- Too cold and they cannot move to new food so they starve to death
- Bees eat all the food in the hive and starve to death
- Moisture in the hive kills the bees
- Bees weakened before winer by varoa mites and die
- Colony too small to make a good bee-ball during winter
- Queen dies somehow and rest of colony follows
- Nosema (dysentery) causes bees to poop everywhere and die
- Blocked entrance from inside
- Blocked entrance from outside
- Mouse infestation
- Strong winds create temperature fluctuation
- Other diseases