Sometime two weeks ago we had some nice weather that would easily constitute some trips outside from honeybees. Disappointingly there wasn’t any activity, so I went out to knock on the hive and see what I could find. There wasn’t any noise, so I lifted up the lid and looked down into the hive. There weren’t any bees visible at all. I saw straight through to the ground underneath. Frustrated, I decided I would carry the hive in and weigh it to get a better idea of what exactly was the cause of this collapse. The lower box weighed 49.5 lbs, and the top box weighed 50.5 lbs. It doesn’t make any sense!! This colony was in a location protected from the wind, higher up in the garden (not in a cold pocket), and they had more than enough honey to get them through the winter. They didn’t even make it through December!
I haven’t been able to find my hive tool, so I can’t get into the frames and take a look at what all was going on. The hive smells sweet though, and it’s actually been nice having it in the house, haha. I will note that the bees worked very hard to glue everything together, and they even sealed the edges of the hive around the screen bottom. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to remove that.
My hive was definitely the stronger of the two, so I wasn’t very hopeful about my aunts hive. I went over there a few days after pulling mine inside and found that hive weighed less than 15 lbs. My aunt had a bottle of sugar water over the brood nest, but we had a cold snap that had clearly been too much for them. A large pile of bees lay at the bottom of the hive, and there were plenty of mites visible. Mites were a problem in her neighborhood last year too. I took a picture of a spot where I noticed a lot of mites, and having zoomed in on the picture a little bit more I counted 9 of them. Between starvation and mites, they didn’t stand a chance.
At this point I feel like the only sure way to have bees survive through a winter is to have more hives. I’m also considering switching over to Russian or Buckfast bees. Carniolans have had limited success in my yard. This was the first year with Italians, but two failed colonies, one of which should have been extremely successful, is discouraging. Any thoughts on Buckfast or Russian bees? I know they’ve got a reputation for being a little more aggressive, but they’re both supposed to be wonderful at overwintering in this damp/cold climate. I would love to hear your thoughts!