Thursday, January 15, 2015

Dead Hives Spring 2014

(I'm catching up on my blog for 2014)

The spring of 2014 was not a pleasant start. Close to the end of March I was finally able to get into the bee yard to feed the bees.

I lifted the hive tops off to insert baggies of honey but instead of being met by a cluster of bees on the top frames I was met with silence.

It was awful. Dead hives.

It started with six dead and as I continued it increased to 10. One hive was so tiny it had only about 25 bees - a write off and considered dead. Another had a small cluster that looked like it might survive but it didn't.

It was my first experience with over-wintering hive deaths. I had been lucky for over five years but not any more. I knew the bees were weak going into winter. The whole summer of 2013 they didn't reach peak numbers and they were constantly requeening.

I knew it was neonics. For the first time corn was planted across the road - about 400 acres of it. That's a lot of neonics blowing in the wind, in the soil, in the water, in everything.

When it got warmer I returned to clean up the dead hives.  I pulled frame after frame and saw lots of bees--dead and resting on the combs. As I lifted supers I found them very heavy with honey.  Some frames had dead bees dunked down in empty cells but every hive had honey.

It was not a good feeling as I'm sure you can relate. I gave all the living hives baggies of warmed honey and I ordered pollen patties and planned to return in a couple days to put them on the hives. But I came down sick and didn't return until a week later. As I was putting the patties on I discovered one more hive had died. This was more painful since they were alive a week ago.  They had not eaten the honey even though temperatures had been warm enough. They should have been able to break cluster.

When disassembling the hives the frames were so packed full of dead bees that I got the feeling that the hives collapsed early in winter. These hives didn't peter down slowly and get weaker and weaker. It was like a massive die off.

Very depressing.  It was not a pleasant spring.

With our recent move in April 2014 to two new yards we are hopefully in a more healthy spot for the bees and father away from corn. Finding healthy places for bees is becoming a real challenge for beekeepers these days.

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