February 23rd, 2020: Here’s a 6-minute video that shows what happened to one of my hives that was completely buried in snow for a week or two — and by completely I mean all the entrances were blocked too.
The bees couldn’t get out for cleansing flights and made a big stinking mess of the hive, or at least their hive entrance. The 6mm / quarter-inch mesh I use to keep shrews out probably made the mess even worse. Who knows, maybe the heat from the colony would have melted the snow around the top entrance and allowed the bees to get out just far enough to poop. Maybe. But for now, especially if my area ever gets hit with an insane snow storm again, I may have to put 12mm / half-inch mesh around the entrances and hope for the best.
April 2nd, 2020: The colony that had the clogged up top entrance is essentially dead now. I wasn’t able to check on my hives in this location until today — and a lot can happen in five weeks. A lot did happen in five weeks. Here’s a shot of the inside of that hive:
Somehow, the top entrance got clogged with more bees again and all the bees inside the hive had nowhere to go and pooped all inside the hive and got sick and now they’re basically dead except for this tiny little cluster which may or may not have a queen:
This kind of thing is the #1 reason I try to keep most of my bees next to my house. A backyard beekeeper who can’t keep their bees in their backyard is basically rolling the dice with the welfare of their bees. All the worst things I’ve ever had happen to my bees have happened with hives that I didn’t have next to my house and couldn’t always check on when I needed to.
I don’t know what clogged up the top entrance of the hive again. It could have been more snow. I cleaned it up as well as I could at the time, but I guess I didn’t clean it up well enough. And then we had more storms that prevented me from getting to the bees. Then I was sick with a bad cold for more than two weeks. And then I had to self-isolate a while because of Covid-19 concerns.
So I knew when I visited the bees today that I would likely find something bad. And I did. Not only did I find a poop-filled hive of sick and dying bees, I also found another hive half-soaked on one side because, I guess, all the melting snow around the hives leaked into this one hive? I don’t know. I added a moisture quilt to that hive and give it a protein patty. I also duct taped over every crack I could find where water might seep in. There were other issues but they were minor compared to these big ones.
If I can get all my colonies next to my house to do well, I may bring the hives at this out yard (I guess that’s the term for it) back to the house this summer. All the the catastrophic conditions I’ve found some of my hives in over the years could have easily been prevented if I’d been able to do quick and easy check-ups on the hives. Some of it is my own fault, but I can’t fix a problem when I’m nowhere near the bees.
I guess I need to get better at preparing some of my hives for winter so I can just leave them alone all winter long without going near them if necessary. I’m not quite there yet.