More dead bees are showing up on the bottom of the foundationless hive, enough to nearly clog the entire bottom entrance. (I first noticed the dead bees on December 22nd.) Most of the them appear to be drones.
Are drones fed like the queen, or can they access and eat honey on their own? I don’t remember. If they rely on the workers to be fed, then my guess is they’re deliberately being starved out of the hive. I’m surprised so many are still around.
I’ve also noticed that the bees in the foundationless hive are clustering heavily in the bottom box. This is what the edge of the cluster looked like a few days ago during the Dry Sugar Feeding (I fed them even though I don’t think they’re running low on honey):
Compare it to a typical cluster from one our conventional hives:
I think the bees in the foundationless hive we’re always clustering lower in the hive for some reason. I could always see a few of them hanging off the lower bottom bars. I’m not sure if adding dry sugar over the top bars has driven the bees in all the hives down into the bottom box. I noticed bees in one of the conventional hives still clustering high, while in another hive they’re back on the bottom again. That is, I could see at least a few bees down below, whereas before the dry sugar feeding, they were entirely in the top box.
Another factor in the movement of the bees might be the mouse-proof mesh I put on the hives for the first time. (I used solid wooden entrance reducers last year.) Perhaps the cold wind blowing through the mesh drove the bees up higher. Maybe they have plenty of honey down below, but are simply moving to the warmest, least drafty places in the hive. I’ve partially blocked the entrances with pieces of wood, at least temporarily, to cut down on the wind getting inside. It does get mighty windy around here at times.
But who know what’s really going on? Not me. I’m just throwing it out there to see what sticks.
UPDATE (Jan. 08/12): The dead bees in the foundationless hive are still piling up. The bottom entrance is practically blocked with dead bees. I think some rain may have leaked in and chilled many of the bees. Here’s a photo of some of the moisture I found in the hive today:
That’s sugar, not snow, on the top edge of the photo.
UPDATE (Feb. 16/12): Check out Dry Sugar and Pollen Patties to see how things worked out.