Actually, it’s the hive I’ve named Bernice that is known to be surviving at the moment. I don’t have any named Hope but that’s not a bad idea, now that I think about it. In any case, I checked the two backyard hives yesterday and found the workers of Queen Bernice dining on the sugar that I placed in the hive last fall as insurance. The cluster was already at the top of the hive back then despite having at least one full super of honey below the top super. It looks like they’ve gone through more than half of the ten pounds of sugar and I’ve got some sugar cakes made should they exhaust this before nectar is available this spring. I also gave them a little pollen patty, that brown thing on the right, in case they get a hankering for that.
The other backyard hive, a split from the only hive we had survive last winter was dead. The cluster was huddled toward but not in one of the corners of the lower of two medium boxes. The super above them is still full of honey and then there is ten pounds of sugar on top of that so I’m pretty sure they didn’t starve to death. If I had to guess, I’d say they froze because the cluster was too small. We’ve had some unusually long stretches of brutally cold weather without a break and other beekeepers in the area are reporting smaller clusters perishing for no other apparent reason. I’m going to take this as a lesson to make sure hives have a good population going into winter and to take extra precautions with nucs, should I end the season with any.
The 2014 beekeeping season is going to be different for me. My partner and I are going to go more our separate ways as we have different goals and amounts of time we’re willing to allot to the bees. I’m going to have two to three hives in my back yard and let him take over the other hives we’ve started in the other four locations. My idea is that with fewer hives and a convenient location I’ll be able to give them more attention and, I hope, learn more and become a better beekeeper in the process.