Today I'm assessing the strength of the hives after the long winter. As mentioned in my first post, the bees have had a difficult year. I'm hoping to find hives strong enough from which to make new hives. It's been a good news/bad news, feast/famine sort of day.
I find another dead hive. A handful of bees have starved, their heads buried deep in empty honey cells. Only inches away, other cells hold plenty of capped honey. But the cold and the small population of bees made it impossible for them to leave the winter cluster to get to the honey. I finger through the dead bodies--stiffened worker bees, a shriveled drone, but no queen. Looks like another queen failure. With no queen, the bees are not replaced and gradually died off.
The good news is that in two of my outlying bee yards, I find eight hives ready to explode in population. Filled with bees, larvae, eggs, pollen and honey, their queens are performing well. If left alone, these hives may become too congested and cast off swarms in the coming weeks. What I am doing is creating artificial swarms--that I can keep! From each strong hive, I take 3 frames, making sure the queen is not crawling on any of these and that there are indeed some unhatched eggs present. I put these frames in the screened-up nucleus hives. These eight new hives go back to my home apiary and I set them up on the stands I have prepared.
If things go well, the bees will make new queens that will hatch in about 14 days, mate within a week after that, and then return to the hives to begin lives of egg laying. I must be patient and wait at least a month to find out whether the bees have been successful. In the meantime, I feed them frames of thawed honey that I've kept frozen from last season and--hope! What is beekeeping but disappointment followed by new hope.