Today was 44F, which for February in Vermont is quite warm. I was able to peek at some hives I’d previously only been able to listen to. I was also able to clean out the dead bees that fall to the bottom of the hives and can block the bottom entrance, which is a good thing to do in anticipation of that first day in the 50’s. Alas, it is not forecast to be that warm in the predicted future, and sometimes March even struggles to get there. On that fine first warm day though, the bees will fly, and evacuate themselves, which they have been holding in for months. If Winter brings no reprieve warm enough to fly, some of the bees will suicide outside to prevent themselves from spoiling the hive, but eventually, some will give up, and everyone inside can start to get sick. The other thing, of course, that can cause similar issues are varroa mites, who weaken the bees and can spread dysentery viruses.
I had one previously booming hive that has had some evacuation marks on the front of the hive, which can be a warning sign, and they sounded pretty weak. I was able to peek inside today and there is a large softball-sized cluster left… just enough to make it… barely. The next few weeks will make or break them. As a last ditch effort to help, I gave them a light oxalic acid fumigation to kill any mites, one of which I actually saw in the snow last week under the hive. Not a good sign!
I have also lost one overWinter nuc, which is a Summer split (i.e. a way to make new hives, not usually strong enough to produce honey, and only prepared to survive Winter.) They were weak from the start, and I suspect an underpowered queen. There she is in the picture, poor thing, but her loyal subjects defended her to the end, as she is clearly in the middle of the cluster, where they were trying above all else to keep her warm.
I still have one year-old hive that is looking very healthy, and one strong nuc, in addition to the beleaguered year old hive. Crossing my fingers for milder temps, but the two strong hives ought to make it to Spring. A month to go until the thaw begins in earnest.