Antisthenes says that in a certain faraway land the cold is so intense that words freeze as soon as they are uttered, and after some time then thaw and become audible, so that words spoken in winter go unheard until the next summer. - Plutarch, Moralia
A little late with this post about closing up our hives. The weather since October has been so variable: warm, summer-like days mixed with very cold days, some with frost. Sometimes, these two types of weather happened in one week–as I write this week, for instance. Bees are out, then in, then out.
As a result, when we visited our garage bees about a month ago, after varroa treatment, they were still quite active. However, as can be seen in the above photo, we have old store cells, new ones, and uncapped crystallized ones. There was precious little-to-no brood, as to be expected. But this is a busy, healthy hive, with every chance of getting through the winter. (fingers crossed). So, we did all the winter preparations. Of course, with the warm weather this week, they were flying around like crazy still. I can’t tell whether the prolonging of the warm weather will be a good or bad thing for them.
Our Swarm Bees or Dinks were a real worry for most of the summer and especially going into the autumn. I don’t know whether you remember the last post: we found signs that we might have a drone laying worker. Even were this not the case, it was an incredibly small colony, smaller than the actual swarm when it was collected. There was very little brood and what there was looked suspiciously like drone cells. We did not like the option of dumping them on the ground, so had closed them up and watched and waited.
Up until the time we opened them up for a last look before winter, there had been some activity, not a lot, but we knew bees were still there. When we opened up the hive, as you can see from above, things did not look good.
And they weren’t really. This was pretty much most of the bees. Bless them, they looked like they had been collecting their little nectar socks off. But as with the garage bees there were signs of the cold weather with crystallization and uncapping.
I was actually surprised that they had lasted this long and had been productive. What their incentive was without a queen, I don’t know. We decided against trying to get these little survivors combined with the garage bees, because we were not sure what had caused their queenless state: we figured bad weather inhibiting a virgin queen but we didn’t know. Also, we didn’t see any good purpose to disrupting the garage bees with the combining process. So we closed them up again and decided to wait.
Rusty at the HoneyBee Suite wrote a post on Dinks as part of fall management. She defines a dink as
You have a small colony of honey bees that seems to have stalled. The frames of bees look normal enough, and they contain brood, honey, pollen, and a seemingly healthy queen. The bees are performing normal honey bee activities, but the colony doesn’t seem to thrive.
She goes onto describe a dink as grapefruit-sized. Well, clearly, this was more clementine-sized, and nothing else besides their persistence was healthy-looking. But I still call it a dink for want of any other name. Rusty gives some good advice on when not to or to combine. No discredit to her that I didn’t really take it.
So, we closed it up. Since then we have had several days of cold, frost, and rain. The result is that the hive no longer shows any signs of life, not even this week when the garage bees were extremely busy during warm days. Oh well. They were a scrappy little lot. Sorry to see them go.
But they were not the only loss this week. For we have have been visited with a wildlife habitat apocalypse. But when I finally get around to the other wildlife update next time, I will reveal all….