Thursday, September 25, 2014

Winter Kill

Disaster struck my hives this winter: both were lost. In fall I added burlap sacks to the venturi board inner cover for added insulation and moisture wicking. There was activity (buzzing) at that time, but of course I did not examine the hive. I only lifted the top cover and placed the organic coffee sacks into the inner covers. I was warned not to do the same thing to both hives when trying something new. Did my choice of inner cover or insulating material play a part? Doubtful, but difficult to positively eliminate as a factor.

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Both hives were in a similar state on February 16, 2014, so an explanation of the condition of any one hive applies to the other. Hives were treated with a single application of two MAQS2 pads in the late summer, although the treatment did kill one queen. There was plenty of food; fifty pounds or more in the top food box. So they didn't starve, using other examined conditions. There were very few dead bees on the bottom board, much less than would normally be found after a winter. There were no more than a handful of bees with their butts sticking out of a cell in a starvation display. There were only a few bees scattered around on the outside of the cells on the frames; so they did not freeze en masse. I examined the surface of the snow around the hive and yard, digging through the layers of snow to look for kill; but found nothing. The cells and bottom board had no apparent signs of pests or disease.

The bees had just absconded, sometime in the fall by the appearance of it. I had the good fortune of attending an educational seminar in the next month, so I took photos to show master beekeepers, regional apiarists and scientists. Anecdotally, there were other reports of similar winter kill events in the interior of BC. It was hard to pin down a direct cause. Could it have been CCD? Our cold winter with intermittent warm spells? Weakening from the formic acid treatment? Or some combination of factors? It is back to square one.


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