At Friday's Bee Club meeting, Ken Warchol (Worcester County Bee Inspector) mentioned that he is seeing a lot of starvation in hives this winter. We had a poor nectar season last year, and it didn't get cold until later, so the bees ate their stores more (when the bees are cold and in cluster, they don't consume as much food).
I made some bee candy last week, and took the opportunity today to put some on the hives. Usually you don't have to do this until mid February, but as Ken said, a lot of bees are starving.
I hadn't been out to the Sutton hives in a while, so after wading through over-knee-deep snow to get to the hives, I took a look at them.
It turns out that I think the left hive is dead. This was the hive which was started up from a package last spring. When I opened up the top, I could see unmoving bees in between some of the frames. I cracked open the two hive bodies and took a peek, and saw more dead bees. I tapped on the side, and heard nothing. So I fear for the worst. I went ahead and put the shim on and some bee candy, but I am not hopeful. But I was surprised by one of my hives last winter that I thought was dead, so who knows!
The second hive, which was the hive which came through the winter last winter, had about a 6" cluster of bees visible at the top bars. In the following picture, you can see them in the upper right corner (in between the bee candy).
That's a very small cluster, but they may make it through the winter.
Back home I went to my backyard hives to put some bee candy on them as well. I started with the Green Hive, and saw no life there as well. Saw some dead bees, and no sound. I wasn't too pleased - that was a good hive going into the winter. Again, I put a piece of bee candy on it just in case.
The then opened up the Pink Hive (middle hive) and didn't see any bees on top. But then I heard the hive start to roar (in protest), and a couple of bees came up to the top bars. I quickly put some candy on and closed it up. Because I didn't see bees all the way to the top, I am hopeful that they had honey in the hive they hadn't eaten all of, and still had a good amount left.
Then I opened up the Brown Hive, and woah! I was very surprised to see this:
They were all over the top bars, and on the inner cover as well. While that is a great number of bees, it also means they were out of food. I gratefully put on about 4 sugar patties, and the bees were very agitated. They flew up into my face (I was just wearing my winter coat and hood, which is usually find in the winter), and I got a sting on my forehead for my efforts! (as an aside, that was my first sting for the season - I made it through the spring, summer, and fall without a sting, only to get one in the winter!).
So the tally so far:
- Sutton Hive 1: small cluster, may not make it
- Sutton Hive 2: dead
- Green Hive: dead
- Pink Hive: cluster low in the hive, will probably make it
- Brown Hive: big cluster high on the top bars, with feeding will probably make it.