Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Our Last Hive Did Not Make It Through The Extreme Winter

Dara has been very positive about our one remaining hives survival. I kept saying, "I think they are dead" and she kept saying "no way". This is one case where I wish I was wrong. 

I found this small cluster of dead bees in the center of the hive. They did not have the numbers to make it through the brutally cold winter. Bees keep warm in the winter by forming what is called the "winter cluster". The worker bees cluster around the queen in the center of the hive and actually shiver to raise the temperature to around 81 degrees F. Once the queen starts to lay again the bees ramp up the shivering to bring the cluster temperature to around 93 degrees F. This hive did not have the numbers to keep everyone warm.

They did draw out a lot of comb. I will use this comb in swarm traps this spring to attract local honey bees. The last two years I have bought my colonies from a local bee supplier. He drives down to Georgia every spring and brings back hundreds of boxed colonies. I think part of my problem has been buying colonies from down south and expecting them to acclimate to our temperature extremes.

I will be baiting my hives and building 3-4 swarm traps this spring. If I catch bees, I will be a bee keeper this year. If I don't, I guess I get a year off.

At some point the original queen died or left. I found 5-6 queen cells on the comb. I will be making a bunch of mason bee houses this year. They are great pollinators and need no management at all. I hope I catch a couple swarms this spring. One of these days we will enjoy some honey produced on the homestead.


  1. That's really too bad about your hive.
    I recently read a news piece about a keeper in New Brunswick (Canada) who doesn't medicate his bees. He lets the 'sickly' die off and keeps the healthy ones...It has since propagated a much stronger colony.
    I know nothing about bee keeping, just thought it was interesting!

  2. Hey D,

    Yeah we are pretty natural when it comes to bees around here. I don't use chemicals on my bees, the only thing I have done is supplemental feed over the winter. Hopefully I can catch some locally adapted bees and have better success this season. Survival of the fittest.

  3. I have to say, I was with Dara. I was really hoping this would be the year for you guys... :(

    1. Thanks Sean, I will do my best to get some local adapted bee stock this year. once I get the hang of it, we should talk about putting some hives on your farm!

  4. I am starting to build my hive this week. What are the dimensions of your hive?

  5. Hey Peter,

    I followed the design from bio-bees. Here is a link to the plans. They are free to download. Enjoy!

    Also if you want to see how I made mine check out this post I did.