Yesterday and today I checked 140 colonies of mine. I couldn’t reach one apiary with 6 colonies due to muddy roads. It was freezing in the morning but 50°F (10°C) in the middle of the day and sunshine. Four colonies had previously been taken care of, dead. These were small and had problems last fall, took the feed poorly and had had too little brood so it was no surprise.
Most colonies had been out on their cleansing flight after winter. But not all. Some sat still as in the middle of winter.
Another four colonies were now smaller than a month ago (was small last autumn as well) and they were not in harmony. Probably queen, nosema or virus problems. Probably they will die. Then there were four small colonies which sat quietly in a nice round cluster. They will probably survive. If this result holds it means 5% winter losses. I must be pleased with that.
In three colonies, mice had colonized the bottom box of the three boxes these colonies were wintered on. In one of these mice had totally cleaned out all the frames in the bottom box. The bees were sitting in the top two boxes. The mice had entered through a ventilation opening in the bottom. The nettings over it was apparently bad. In one colony mice had entered through a hole made by a woodpecker.
In another apiary a Woodpecker had made several small holes in a hive. This had a lot of feces right outside the entrance. The colony had obviously been disturbed by the woodpecker. The green woodpecker laughed in the background on my visit. But the colony was strong.
One colony was especially fun to see. It was a small split of last year that failed with its new queen mating and started with laying workers. A pair of fists of bees left. Another small split in the same apiary had about the same story, after two queen pupae it had an egglaying queen, but only a handful of bees. Both of these were combined and dronebrood combs were removed. Now the small colony grew slowly and became strong enough to winter, but not very strong. Today after a perfect wintering, it is strong in the two boxes.
In another apiary was a small colony wintered quite week with 5 insulating dummy frames at the outer edges. The two boxes can hold a total of 24 shallow frames (137x448mm). The colony boiled with bees. It had obviously brooded in late winter and very early spring (it’s still early spring). It looked fine now and seemed to have come through winter well. There was some food left, but I lifted off the upper box and replaced the dummy frames with real frames with food, in both boxes.
All colonies look generally fine and the season looks promising so far now in March. We’ll see how it looks later on.