Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hive Inspection: 01-12-2013

With another veritable heat wave (just above 50 degrees) here in Michigan back on January 12, I had to go and see how "my girls" were doing!  Doing an inspection would also give me a chance to try out my new "J-Hook" hive tool that I received as a Christmas gift.  Exciting stuff for a beekeeper that just sits around the house in the Winter wondering how cold his bees are  =)

Flash back to previous hive status reports and you'll see that Green Hive was going strong with plenty of stores (honey) and White Hive had much fewer bees and no stores other than the sugar feed I had placed in the hive and what I had stolen from Green Hive (1 frame of honey).  What I found when I opened the hives was not what I was expecting.

Green Hive:
I opened the lid and did not see any bees in the honey super.  Still lots of honey there with almost every frame full of capped honey or nectar.  Removed that box and proceeded to look at the top box.  Strange, no bees moving around and none flying.

Top Box with new hive tool

I pried the box off with my new hive tool and after cracking through a lot of propolis (I haven't removed this box is quite some time), I removed the top box and began to look at the bottom box.  Sitting on top of the frames was a small cluster of dead bees around some areas of dark "stuff".  After brushing off the dead bees and removing some burr comb, this is what it looked like.

I believe this is a sign of bee dysentery.  One possible cause of this is too much liquid in the bees diet when they don't have the ability (because of cold temps) to fly outside and "relieve" themselves.  Another possibility is a disease called Nosema.  During warmer temps you usually see signs of this by seeing brownish streaks on the outside front of the hive.  The bees have runny stools and aren't as in control as they normally would be.  I'm sure you all are fascinated by this talk of bee poo, but I guess it is an important symptom to pay attention to!

Anyway, I pried apart a number of these frames to find another small cluster of dead bees (golf ball size).  This is nothing to really be concerned about as you do expect to loose some bees during the Winter.  The next thing that concerned me was looking through the frames to find this:

I had no idea what these little white granules were sitting inside these honey cells.  Weird.  At first I thought maybe they were some sort of insect larvae (yuck).  Upon closer inspection I quickly dismissed that possibility.  Since they all appeared to be wet with nectar, I was hoping that perhaps it was just crystalized honey.  I posted this picture on some bee blogs and everyone was in agreement that this was just crystalized honey.  Whew!  I guess everything unexpected is enough to freak out a new beekeeper!

At this point I decided to put the box back together and right off this hive as a Winter kill for some unknown reason.  I put the heavy bottom box back on the stand (there is still a lot of stores in the boxes!), and I reached for the second box just in time to see that I was being observed...

A small cluster of bees with their heads peeking up at me!  Hmm, looks like they aren't dead after all.  Sadly, this cluster is still very small and at this point I do not hold out much hope that they will survive the Winter, despite all the honey still in the hive!  Since I did not break apart the frames in this box, I can hope that there were a lot more bees that just did not want to come up and say Hi.

White Hive:
As I opened this hive, I was expecting to see very little activity since this has been the weaker hive all season.  Upon removing the lid, I was met with two annoyed bees.  They loudly buzzed around my veil and continued to fly around me.  They were probably trying to tell me to shut the lid because it was still pretty flippin' cold out!  =)  I removed the inner cover to check on the top honey super that is holding four empty frames, one frame of honey and an empty space where I put down a bunch of sugar feed.  Here it is:


To my happy surprise there were a handful of bees merrily crawling over the pile of sugar.  Now that's good eats!  Looking down past the sugar into the box below, it looks like there is still some stored honey there as well.

Although I would like to have seen a bigger cluster of bees for this hive, I am pleased to see the amount of activity that this hive is showing.  As a little extra insurance policy, I decided to take a few of the honey frames from Green Hive and move them over into White Hive.  It is possible that I moved Green Hive's problem into White Hive by doing this but if White Hive starved to death from lack of honey, they would be equally as dead, so I decided to risk it.

All in all, it looks like I might still get one hive through the Winter.  At least another two months to go before we are close to Spring, so keep your fingers crossed!

As always, thanks for reading!


  1. Thanks for that great pic of the crystalized honey in the comb. It would have freaked me out, too. One of my hives is dead now [same cause as yours, looks like] We're watching the other and keeping it protected from the wind and so far, so good. I heard a happy hum when I tucked them in yesterday. Always a relief.

    1. Yeah, it seemed like a no brainer to the beeks on the forum, but to me the white clumps HAD to be some weird new disease or something! Thankfully not!

      Always great to hear that hum!

  2. Hang in there white hive! I'm rootin for you guys!

    1. Hahahh, you are just biased because that is the hive you built!! =) And you probably realize that is where you next jar of honey is likely to come from =)