BEEKEEPING IN THE NORTHEAST - An account of my beekeeping, not a treatise of expertise, but for friends & family who wish to keep bees vicariously through me, and for the occasional apiarist passer-by.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Longest Winter


Here is my new apiary site (photo taken in the fall) and yesterday we went out with our neighbor Mary, who is a somewhat retired professional gardener, and we surveyed the prep work we did in fall 2013. We planted those things that could go right in the ground as soon as the soil could be worked - beets - carrots - spinach - parsley - arugula - but nothing except the maples are beginning to bloom here and it's already April 28, 2014. My rhubarb has yet to peek up out of the leaf mulch from last fall.


So, we all lost our hives this winter 2013 - 2014. Even Harold and Larry, the old timers, lost all of their hives. Maura and I, even Bob up the way. My bees never had a break from November on, and the days are still in the 40s but the snow has finally melted.

Thank goodness I ordered nucleus colonies from Mike Palmer's disease resistant northern hearty stock. Everyone had some setbacks this winter.

I'll seek to explain what I think happened to my dead hives.

This is my Ferncroft Road Hive of bees that overwintered 2012-2013. There were absolutely no signs of mice, but many honey bee abdomens on the floor of the hive.

I have to speculate, since there was no brood and lots of pollen and at least two frames of honey, that these bees were invaded by Yellow Jackets when they were too cold to do much about it.

Found this while looking them up from the University of Illinois Extension

"...Once it freezes, blooming ceases. The result is a very large, very hungry population of wasps that are short-tempered and sting with little provocation. These wasps do not die until there is a 5- to 7-day period when the high temperature is below 45 degree F. They search out every nook and cranny for food..."

Still seems weird. There are bee butts hanging out of comb which could indicate starvation or died in a nest, being the bees that keep the heat circuit of the nest by climbing in empty cells on each side of a frame, but the bees were not found in a nest, had pollen and honey, and were in a deteriorated state, bottom board littered with dismembered bees, indicating they died in fall 2013.

Backyard Hive: This breaks my heart to see it again, up close, but my backyard hive seems to have died of starvation; however, all the capped brood was infected with the Sacbrood Virus. A healthy hive can overcome sacbrood, but why was the queen laying these bees sick? It was just so cold. No stores were left in this hive and all the bees were in their nest formation, covering the sick brood. The bees all looked young, so perhaps the brood rearing was successful up to a point. It is still too cold to fly during the day this April 28, 2014.

I will relocate my Ferncroft Apiary to a new sunny site as well as give my backyard a break. I hope to get two hives set up at the wild apple orchard across from where it presently resides. The trees have grown up too high and I think the shade has been a problem. If yellow jackets are the issue here they must be nesting close to the original location.


A good omen, I hope, was a Bumble Bee Queen greeting me this morning having slipped into a crack in my bedroom storm window. We put her outside in our open shed in the sun - not the side with the nesting Eastern Phoebe!

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