I have been on tenterhooks – worried sick that all our bees would have died either from cold weather, lack of stores, disease or some other mystery. Weeks have gone by as I have waited for the weather to be warm enough to check them, treat with oxalic acid (for varroa) and offer some fondant (to supplement stores). Finally, with a little sunshine and no frost today I checked the car temperature display and it read 6’C – all systems go!
Starting at Flixton I opened the nuc box first, there was a small cluster of bees in it, very quiet – I treated with oxalic acid and gave them some fondant as quickly as possible. Fingers crossed for their survival into spring, definitely not a strong colony. The other two hives both had large piles of dead bees outside, but I comforted myself with advice from Bob Spruce; those with the largest numbers of dead bees are often the strongest colonies (more bees available to be lost). Thankfully this bore out and they both look to be thriving.
Feeling much lighter of heart I opened the first of the Barsham hives, only to have it sink in my boots as I was confronted with a dead cluster of bees. They were all together and there were plenty of stores but there weren’t very many bees so I wonder if they died of cold. I will find out if there is anything else I need to look for in particular. The last two hives housed much stronger colonies – who were also a little cross at my intrusion. I am currently sporting my first sting of 2011 (I am sitting on it as I type), which can only arise from having living bees – hurragh!