So I totally slacked off in updating this blog since last fall. Figured I’d try to catch up with just the highlights before things start to get hectic again.
Going into the winter, Andoria looked nice and strong; Vulcan seemed really weak, though I never did figure out why. I theoretically could have combined them with the strong hive, but I was afraid if they were sick, they’d transfer the disease to the strong hive. So I let them be, assuming that they probably wouldn’t make it through the winter.
Sometime in January I peeked in, and both colonies were still alive! Both clusters were at the top of the hive, however, which meant they were probably low on honey stores. Generally, the bees cluster in the fall at the bottom of the hive; throughout the winter, they slowly move their way upward, eating their way through their honey stores. So when they’re at the top in January, they’re at risk of starvation. So I added a pile of granulated sugar to each to get them through.
Checked on them a couple of times after that and added some more sugar. I was optimistic that since even the weak colony had made it this far, they were both probably going to pull through. Then I checked in early March, and the Vulcans were dead. A pile of dead bees on top of the pile of sugar. Pretty disappointing and sad. 🙁
Once it got a little warmer, I took apart the dead hive to try to figure out what had killed them. As it happens, my local bee club (www.CatskillBees.org) had just sent out a newsletter that included an article on different reasons for dead colonies. From their descriptions (lots of bees in the hive, many with their heads in the cells, lots of honey, and the bees look wet), it’s likely that they died from too much condensation–which means it was my fault and could have been prevented. Bees can take the cold pretty easily, but they can’t take being wet and cold. (That’s one reason you put dry sugar in once they get through their honey instead of syrup–not just because it may freeze, but because it puts too much moisture into the hive.) I apparently did not give enough upper ventilation to allow air circulation through the hive, though I thought I had. Poor little bees. 🙁
The Andorian colony still seems to be doing ok. Hopefully I don’t do something else wrong and kill them, too. I did actually order another package of bees back in the fall when I thought the Vulcans weren’t going to make it anyway. Those will be here soon, so at least I’ll still have two colonies this year.