I began by taking the top box off and it was heavy! Looking though the box frame by frame revealed solid frames of honey front and back. A few small clusters of dead bees here and there but nothing out of the ordinary. After looking at six frames, I finally found part of the main cluster on frame 7. I couldn't believe that the bees never even really made it to the top box!! The bees generally start at the bottom of the hive at the beginning of winter and gradually move up to the top of the hive eating the honey as they go. With only part of the main cluster being in the top box, it seems that the bees never even made it far into winter. That would confirm my thought that they had died in early January.
|Part of the cluster|
Finally I removed the bottom box and looked at the screened bottom board. There was a 2 inch thick layer of dead bees there! On top of that layer of bees were a few crumb lines. These would be from the bees above them chewing through the wax cappings and the crumbs falling to the bottom of the hive. This tells me that quite a few bees had died but the cluster remained alive for some time after that.
|Dead bees on screened bottom board|
Well, I guess I have to look at the bright side. Spring is right around the corner and I have two packages of bees on order due to arrive in May. All the honey remaining in this hive will be put to good use in establishing two new hives! Better luck for the upcoming winter too!
|wax crumb line on dead bees|