Monday, March 19, 2012

A Weak Hive

Winter was incredibly mild and we seemed to have missed spring and gone straight into summer with temps around 22 degrees C. So, off with the winter wraps.

In the fall I had six hives, five strong and one that had been battling heavy mite loads all summer.

On approaching the bee yard it was immediately evident that five of the hives were doing very well. And one was not.

Hundreds of bees were flying in front of the first five hives but Hive #1 only had about three lonely bees on the stoop. I was saddened but not surprised. The hive had problems last summer when it went queenless, with no brood or eggs. I gave them a queen cell from another hive and they mostly recovered but their numbers didn't get up to where they should have been.

The hive had been plagued with heavy mite loads. I treated in spring and fall with formic acid but still there were still far too many mites. I knew this would dangerously weaken the hive.

In the fall many baby bees had deformed wings so the new workers born couldn't be productive.

Last fall I also noticed tiny moisture droplets inside the hive and I kept blaming my hive top feeder thinking it was leaking. I tested the feeder at home and it didn't leak. It was a mystery. The moisture was like a fine mist. We'd had a lot of rain in fall so I was left confused where it came from. Was it condensation? There was a top vent open to release moisture.

Yesterday I took the hive apart. The deep was empty with a few bees standing on the combs--dead. There were many bees in capped cells, partly exposed but not hatched--and dead.

The bottom board was covered with bee parts. A sad scene.

The top exit/ventilation hole had about 2 handfuls of bees pooled where the wrap was snug against the hive, just under the vent--all dead.

There were live bees on three frames in the medium super and they were clustered over cells of eggs. I didn't see any larvae or a queen. There was one egg in each cell at the bottom--so it may take a few days to determine if they really do have a queen or if it's a drone layer.

The super was heavy with capped honey but the surface of the cappings had a fine layer of a blue coloured mold. This I'm presuming is because of the mist/moisture from the fall.

I took away the deep, leaving them in a super with a few frames.  I gave them a new bottom board, a pollen patty and some sugar water and repositioned the hive so it had more of a slant for water drainage. Their entrance reducer is set to the smallest setting.

Later this week I'll give them a frame of brood from one of my strong hives. I want to see if I can bring these bees back.

In hindsight maybe the hive was sealed up too much for the mild winter we had.  With bees too weak to deal with the moisture they couldn't maintain their combs.  Then mold got a chance to set in.

Kudos to the determined little workers who are hanging on. I'll do what I can to help them.
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