Predicting Winter Survival

I was looking at the video I made on October 25th of me removing the top hive feeders and installing some small inverted jar feeders as one last feeding for the bees before I wrapped them up for winter — and judging from the number of bees covering the bars of the top frames, I think Hive #1 (on the left) is considerably weaker than Hive #2 (on the right). Ideally, what we want to see before wrapping the hives for winter, is a carpet of bees like this (taken on August 14th of this year):

But I suppose that’s expecting too much from a couple of hives started from nuc boxes in mid-July. They had a little over two months to expand from 3 frames to 20, and then they had to fill all those frames. That’s a tough haul.

Hive #1 was in great shape until September, and then something happened — I don’t know what — and the colony lost all its vigour. Worker bees were still bringing in pollen, but activity in and around the hive was easily half of what it’d been all summer long. Whatever happened, the colony stopped growing and didn’t pick up much steam for the rest of the year, barely taking down any syrup. It’s still alive, but I’m not going to be surprised if it doesn’t make it through the winter. So there’s my prediction: Come early spring 2011, the colony in Hive #1 will be dead.

Hive #2 was slow during the summer compared to Hive #1. Then just as Hive #1 took a dip, it went crazy with activity, more active than anything we saw from the other hive even at its peak. The bees in Hive #2 started building comb and filling them with winter stores faster than anything I saw all summer. They were taking down at least 2 litres of syrup a day. It was crazy — and impressive. I’m not too worried about Hive #2.

So I won’t be surprised if Hive #1 doesn’t make it. I’ll be happy with one surviving hive. I’ll be overjoyed if both make it through the winter.

To be continued… around March or April 2011.

UPDATE (Oct. 18/11): Both hives made it through the winter. They were starved for honey and I had to feed them dry sugar later in the winter to keep them alive, but there was no big difference between the two hives in the spring once the queens began laying again.

PHOTOS NOTE (OCTOBER 2015): The photos in this post may not display properly because they were uploaded through Google’s Picasa online photo album service, a service I no longer use because certain updates create more work for me instead of streamlining the process. I will eventually replace the photos with ones hosted on the Mud Songs server. This note will disappear when (or if) that happens.