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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 19th year of beekeeping in April 2024. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Death threat and the bee hives

Finally the temperature has risen to 52; I am actually at home being Grandma to my grandson Dylan; and the bees are flying - but only from two hives. Before lunch I noticed that the bees are having a veritable party in front of Mellona (the center hive) and are pretty enthusiastic in front of Aristaeus2.

But Bermuda, my original bee hive which, if it survives this winter, will be entering its fifth year, is painfully quiet. I watch the entrance like a hawk, but no bees appear. An occasional bee hesitates around the entrance the way a hive robber does, but no normal entering and exiting is happening.

I felt deflated at lunch, thinking my bees, my original hive, had now bitten the dust. Recognizing that bees were out and about, before Dylan and I went to lunch I made up three sugar syrup baggies (being optimistic) and left them to cool while we went to Dylan's favorite place: Chik-Fil-A.

When Dylan went to nap, I opened up the hives. I opened Bermuda first, feeling a sinking in the pit of my stomach.

Joy! Joy! Joy! Under the hive cover in the top box were the bees. They were tightly clustered around two frames in the top box. I think their numbers have diminished considerably, but they were there! And they were alive.

I immediately gave them a bag of 2:1 sugar syrup. It's still too early in Atlanta to feed them 1:1, according to Jennifer Berry's article in Bee Culture this month.

I then opened Mellona and was sad to find dead bees in the sugar syrup which was crystallized. I don't understand this but feel very sad about it. This hive is doing fine, despite the bee kill in the baggie. There are lots of bees somewhere in a lower box on the hive. I didn't explore since it was clear that they are alive and doing fine. I just wanted to put in a baggie and shut the hive back up.

After feeding all three hives, I looked at the leaves in front of Mellona. I pushed the leaves aside and saw the piles of dead bodies. Over the winter many bees die in the hives and the mortician bees can't carry the bodies away from the hive. They appeared to have simply swept these bodies out of the hive.

So for the moment the good news is that my bees are all alive - all three hives.

That can turn on a dime, with the exigencies of the weather, and more sudden cold snaps after a few warm days may kill one of my hives yet.

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  1. Anonymous11:23 AM

    hi linda, i'm on my second year beekeeping and have to say that the stress of winter weather and whether or not the bees will survive is more than i imagined. last spring my hive was all dead. i was told they had starved. the other day my friend here who keeps bees called and said that his had all died although they hadn't last year. anyway, mine were alive when i checked the other day... hurray! but there were many dead at the entrance and the ones that i did see weren't the most active ones i'd ever seen but at least they made it this far. we had a long stretch of cold in the single digits. i blogged about it here... http://jimgottuso.wordpress.com/2010/01/16/bring-out-your-dead/

  2. aww well it's good news and sad news. Glad some of the bees survived but so sorry for the ones you lost :(

  3. Anonymous6:05 PM

    I lost 2 out of 11 hives last month due to the cold. They had honey, which I put on top of other hives, but just froze in place in the frames. Half of the hives have poor numbers and may not make it through the rest of the winter here in georgia.

  4. hi Linda! glad your bees are surviving! Bermuda looks like it is the last hive to get full sun, so maybe that's why it was inactive? One of my hives gets sun sooner than the other & it was flying while the other was quiet. Then the sun moved onto it, and the bees appeared. Joy! There were many dead bees on the screened bottom board which I helped remove so the girls could enjoy their cleansing flights w/o too much work. Everything xxed they all make it through the winter.

  5. It's probably in part because they get the sun last, but also because each hive has a different personality. Yesterday I cleaned all the leaves off of the deck and stacked some bricks right next to Aristaeus2. Immediately the guard bees came out of that hive to check out what I was doing. If I had stacked the bricks next to Bermuda, this would not happen. Mellona (in the middle) is always my most active hive - Bermuda, always slower than the rest, but enduring.

  6. I'm so glad your original hive is still alive. I'm fretting over one of my first 2 hives and wondering how I can feed them in this cold weather.

  7. my hive died over the winter here in Denver but I've recently discovered that many of the combs have honey left. I'm not sure what could have caused the death and if it could be some kind of poisoning. Do you think the honey that is left would be safe for bees?


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