Mr. Neil emailed that he had been by the hives and that Kelli was silent. I emailed back, "You mean Kitty, right?" If you recall, Kitty was in a small cluster and the cold was probably going to kill her. The Kelli hive was strong and loud. No, he meant Kelli. I hoped that he was either seriously jet-lagged, had excessive ear wax and ear hair, or maybe minor hearing loss of his punk band days.
Non Birding Bill and I headed out to the hives before I left for Indy to get the down low. I put my ear to the Kelli hive. It was quiet...too quiet. I wondered what could have happened, she was so healthy, did we finally get colony collapse? We wouldn't know without opening the hive. It was about to rain at any moment, so we decided to take the hive apart and take it back to the garage and inspect what could have been the problem. However I soon as I opened the ceiling, I found a small cluster of live bees.
At first I was hopeful to see signs of life. But wen I looked closer, I could see that the cluster was just too small. It barely covered one frame. She had plenty of food to see her through, but one more hard core cold snap was probably going to do this hive in--which is entirely possible even though the calendar reads spring.
What went wrong?
I think I have my answer on the front of the hive. Look at all that bee excrement, I think there's a bit of bee dysentery going on. I think the Kelli girls had a case of nosema, but I can't really say that unless I send in a few bees for testing. Bees hold in their poop all winter and then let it go in the spring. They'll go on cleansing flights on warm days to relieve themselves. They shouldn't go all over the front of the hive. When I give the bees their fall feeding, we put a little antibiotic to prevent nosema. Neither hive ate too much of our homemade nectar, which I didn't think about too much since they both had plenty of food. Kind of regretting that now, but then again, how does one forcefeed a bee so it will take her medicine.
Looks like we'll be starting with all new hives this summer and no dividing of older hives.
We were planning on a total of six hives this summer, but that was based on four new packages and splitting Kelli. Since we will only have four, I'm thinking about trying some Russian bees. We've been using the Minnesota Hygenic bees (Italians) based on their "hygienic" behavior of cleaning out brood cells when they sense something wrong. But the more I read about the Russian bee and how it seems to resist varroa mite infestation a bit and can take a hard winter, I'm thinking I'd like to give some a go.
Any blog readers know someone who raises and sells Russian bees in the US and would be willing to send a package to Minnesota?