Yesterday afternoon I spent some time researching the bees problem. Trying to work out how my two hives died over this winter. I checked all the links you sent me (thank you) and these links took me to other links, I made notes and collated information and a miserable picture has appeared. After playing colour by numbers for a few hours I came to this preliminary conclusion. It was my fault. And it seems I am not alone this year.
I think it went like this. A long hot very dry summer caused a shortage of flowers, even the clover in the fields gave up early on. By September the hives had two full supers of honey each and strength in numbers, big numbers but no flowers at all by then.
Anyway winter came after a while and we plummeted and rose and plummeted and rose and then rose some more then plummeted to ungodly cold then rose again until very warm and then plummeted again .. and still I did not feed them. Mistake number Two. Well you get the picture.
I did not check to make sure they were close to their own honey. Sometimes for no reason they will die of starvation only inches from a full super. So the bees will have joined into their ball to get warm, pulled apart when the weather warmed up, huddled together to get warm again, then pulled apart again. And every time it got cold it was so fast that bees who had pulled away got lost and froze to death.
So far this is where my research is pointing me. I stumbled and they fell. But I have learned an important lesson and if I am able to buy two more colonies I will be more liberal with supplement feeding especially in any winter that has such frequent warm spells and such terrible cold on its heels.
There is no sign of disease or intruders. Everything smells sweet. Mites could have been a problem but my tests did not show any during the summer. So most all the signs point to human error compounded by bad bee weather.
My job now is to take the hives apart, scrape them and clean them, saving the honey. I shall dry them in the sun and cold. When I am sure they are spotless I shall reassemble the hives and introduce two new colonies in May. I have some work ahead of me. Ah well.
One thing I know for sure is that failures are the best learning experiences as long as we can look our failures in the eye and say: my fault. If I do not own the problem I cannot fix it. The misery is that two colonies of bees died to teach me to be more vigilant in the winter.
Of course, I am always grateful for any help and advice. There is a wealth of experience and knowledge within the farmy readership. So do speak up if you think I am missing something.
Soon it will be dawn and off to work I will go trying to grow our own food and trying to live a self sufficient life in a sustainable manner using organic methods. It is a challenge.
I hope you all have a lovely day. Do you think my new header is too bright? I am getting desperate for colour. I bet most of you are too.