We’ve had a fairly cold winter so, unlike most years, I have not been able to simply look outside and see if the bees are flying to know they are ok. I prepared the bees this fall by treating them with various things to make sure they were healthy, I made sure they had plenty of honey and pollen to eat through the winter and then I crossed my fingers.
A few weeks ago, we had a warm day and I was able to check the 4 hives at my house. To my dismay, 2 were dead-outs. All of my hives at other locations are fine so I was surprised to find some at my house that were gone. We live atop a hill in Charleston, WV and we get serious wind. I have a windbreak around them but I suppose that the extreme drafts might have gotten to them. That is the one characteristic that separates the hives at my house from the ones I have elsewhere. It has been said that one cannot freeze bees…if they stay dry and not too windy. If either problem exists, all bets are off so I figured I fell prey to the wind.
I opened the hives and immediately knew that the wind was not to blame, but rather the cold…sort of. You see, my bees didn’t freeze, but rather starved to death. The cold makes bees cluster together. As it gets especially cold with no warm days interspersed, the bees cannot break their cluster. Without breaking cluster, they cannot move through the hive either. Since their honey stores are spread throughout the hive, they need to be able to move around periodically to eat.
So, I opened 2 hives and saw the tell-tale signs…bees still clustered together, many bees with their heads deep in honeycomb cells, and honey nearby, but not right where they died.
I hate for a colony to die, and when it is related to something I might have done wrong, it irritates me even more (fortunately, that doesn’t happen often anymore). But when it’s due to nature, I guess I feel a little bit of relief. It’s never fun, but it is a reality of beekeeping. So, I just hope for warmer days here and there so the bees can move to food and also for a quick Spring! Come on Spring!