About a week ago I came across this blog post from Beekeeping365! It is very well written and provides a lot of important information.
I have a very similar story to tell:
I made it through the winter with 100% of my seven hives. Two weeks ago, during my first frame by frame inspection, I saw the queens, eggs, and activity in each hive. I thought all was looking good, even though one colony was quite a bit smaller than the other six. Instead of treating this colony with more care, I ended up running through the same routine: I cleaned out any dead bees which were still in the hive, cleaned the bottom board, rotated the boxes to get the bees back into the bottom brood chamber and made sure they all had enough dry sugar reserves.
This weekend when I checked on the food reserves, I noticed that the weak colony had no activity and after removing the second brood chamber I found the small cluster of dead bees. Why did they die? I am not sure, but I would suggest that I made some mistakes without knowing it. Last year, this colony seemed super nervous and loud every time I opened the box. I thought about re-queening, but with many bees in all boxes and good brood patterns I decided to hang on. This might have been mistake number one, the queen was going through her second season and a later summer replacement might have sent a stronger colony into the winter. Mistake number two was probably the box rotation AND not removing the second deep brood box. Temperatures in the Pacific Northwest are still dropping into the low 40s or high 30s at night. With the bees and brood in the bottom box, the small cluster might not have been able to stay warm enough at night.
I did treat for mites twice last year and with the last treatment in September the might count was good going into winter.
At the end of the day, I agree with Beekeeping365 – maybe it was lazyness combined with inexperience. Going forward I will replace my queens in the late summer after their second season and I will also downsize the hives if there are not enough bees to keep a two story building warm!
Why did my bees die? This is a question often asked and sometimes difficult to answer. The beekeeper looking at a dead colony is left with clues that can sometimes indicate the cause of death. More often though the beekeeper looks at the “crime scene” and makes an incorrect assumption. We’ve all heard it, “Wax […]