I just realized I’ve been lousy about taking pictures this year, I’ll put some up soon to show some of what’s going on this Spring.
The bad news is that the two hives I thought were alive but not in great health are in fact both dead. The bees I saw going in and out were actually from my top bar hive (TBH) raiding the honey in the dead hives. I went out today and opened them up and discovered no bees in them, so decided I should remove the honey and clean up the hives before wax moths take over.
I don’t understand what happened to the Italian hive. There were two deep supers for the brood box, the bottom was almost all old, empty comb, some even with mold on it, while the top super was almost completely full of honey. All I can figure is that towards the end of the summer something happened to the queen and the hive gradually died out, leaving the new store of honey intact. The other hive I thought was alive but struggling was the same, but it had just a tiny bit of honey.
The only good news is that I cleaned out the honey from the Italian hive and ended up with more than a 5 gallon bucket full of chunks of honey-filled comb. It weighs at least 50 pounds altogether and I suspect it’s at least 90 percent honey by weight, so I guess even if I just figure I got 40 pounds of honey for my $100 investment in the nuc of bees that’s a darned good deal these days. I just need to crush it up and strain it to get the honey out and I should end up with a lot of good wax out of it also. There’s a fair amount of nice built-out comb to save for bait hives and such, and a little that just looks nasty that I’ll melt down and filter, maybe to make candles or such.
There is one other bit of good news, which is that my TBH is doing GREAT. Tremendous numbers of bees going in and out, mostly bringing back pollen, but of course many of them are over cleaning up the honey from the hives I harvested this morning. Hundreds of bees are working the frames that have bits of honey still on them so the bees are having a great time. It will take them a few days to clean them up as I left a fair bit for them, although the fruit trees and some flowers are blooming well so there’s no shortage of pollen for them.
With one really good hive I’m not going to order any bees this year, but I’ll keep an ear out for swarms and see if I can’t get one or two. I’ll also see if I can’t split the TBH in April or May as it’s so full I’m sure it will swarm otherwise.