Planet B Gardens’ bees, sadly, did not make it through this winter. After the bear attacks in the fall that took out half the hives, I had one large, strong hive left and one small, weak one. The remaining hives went into winter with plenty of fresh capped honey. When I opened the large hive, 75% of the honey remained, undisturbed. The smaller hive had 50% left.
There was no sign of moisture build-up, no mold, no varroa mites, no other visible disturbance in either of the hives. A ball of dead bees huddled together in the center of the hive, while the remaining dead ones littered the bottom board. This winter was particularly cold, so knowing that and from the lack of other disturbances, I suspect they simply froze to death.
Local beekeepers say they expect a high level of swarm activity this spring due to the fluctuations in weather among other factors. I cleaned up a bit of cross-comb and removed the dead bees, then set up three hives with the remaining frames of capped honey.
I might get lucky and scout bees will discover my hives full of food and decide it’s a great place to relocate when they’re ready to swarm. Or I will hear of a swarm through the beekeeping community grapevine and relocate the bees to my waiting hives. I could purchase bees again, but last year I heard of several swarms ready for relocation and would like to try repopulating my hives with a swarm (or two) first.