Yellow Hive 2 (YH2)
May 11, 2013 – February 2, 2014
Sunday, February 2, 2014
Our 50+ degree weekend unveiled some bad news. Yellow Hive 2 (YH2) has died. YH2 was always a challenging colony. It never behaved as actively as green hive, and never built up as quickly as green hive. It threw me curve balls – like the time I discovered it had requeened itself just when I was ready to give them a $50 Texas queen. Thanks to YH2, we have Blue Hive 3.
Although YH2 started off strong, I could tell in late November that their numbers were starting to diminish. They were still flying two weeks ago, then cold temps returned. Its loss is not a huge surprise, but still disappointing and sad since somewhere along the way, despite my best efforts, worry, lack of sleep and second guessing, something went wrong. YH2 is my first hive loss.
I opened the boxes and noticed a considerable amount of moisture had accumulated on the frames and comb and the interior felt damp. The brood comb even appeared to be growing mold across the frames. Mites were also visible among the dead bees, and the bottom board revealed quite a few mites, as well. With these problems and the cluster’s decreasing size, the girls just weren’t able to stay warm and likely froze to death. The cluster, although small, was still in tact, and the hive will remain intact for outdoor storage until the warmer temperatures set in.
Lessons Learned and Corrective Actions
If the air flow in the hive is not adequate, then moisture can’t escape. Moisture is a huge enemy to bees, especially in cold weather. Some thoughts on what might have gone wrong and corrective actions …
- Covered Top Frames Too Heavily with Candy. Covering the top frames blocks air from circulating up top, thus preventing moisture from escaping. I’m told that candy and supplemental feeding should cover no more than 1/4 to 1/3 of the surface over the top frames, and that area should be the section that first receives the morning sun.
- It was suggested that the top spacer containing the cedar chips might actually prevent air flow. Instead, I plan to remove the box and add a stick or something that will raise the top telescoping cover just enough to create a small opening that will allow air to flow in and out.
- I also added a mite board to Yellow and Green Hives early on to provide solid bottoms. This too may have caused less air flow in the hive. I was told not to abruptly remove the mite board from green hive because the bee cluster situates itself in the location that is the warmest. By abruptly removing the mite board, they’ll be exposed and may not be able to adjust to a new location quick enough, and they may end up abandoning some of their brood because it’s too cold for the nurse bees to care for it. I wish someone had told me this a day earlier before I so abruptly removed GH1’s mite board. Ugh.
- One last suggestion was to stop feeding syrup earlier in the season. I stopped liquid in October, just before packing them up for winter. I need to stop this year by, say, mid-September. The frames showed quite a bit of uncapped sugar syrup, adding to the liquid and moisture in the hive. Bees need time to not only store and cap their food, but it also needs some time to dry out a bit. The reason we feed candy in the winter is because they don’t digest the liquid diet well, thus requiring more flights to relieve themselves. The same goes for their stores. If they syrup is still runny, then its like feeding them a liquid diet in the winter, which produces moisture in the hive and can result in nosema and disentary. Moisture in winter is just bad all around.
- Apply Lessons Learned to green hive so they don’t endure the same demise – clear frames, remove cedar chips, prop top cover.
- Keep yellow hive boxes and comb outside for storage while temps are still cold, but plan for storage of extra drawn frames once the weather warms.
- Even with mold, bees will clean out the frames in the spring and reuse as they see fit.
- Order one or two packages just to be sure I have at least two hives going in the spring.
- Plan to stop feeding earlier in the season next year so they have time to cap and dry out the stores before they are put away for winter.
YH2, you were a good hive, one of my original two colonies. You minded your own business and preferred to be left alone. I’m sorry you didn’t get an experienced beekeeper, but I’m a better beekeeper because of you. Know that your tolerance and sacrifice will benefit future colonies that will someday call Yellow Hive their home. RIP YH2. I hope you’re in a warmer place where you can be out and about making lots of sweet honey.