These Bees Should Be Dead

One of my beehives, back in January 2019, had its top blown off in a windstorm. The top cover — along with the inner cover and hard insulation — might have been removed in other ways, but the point is, the colony of honey bees trying to stay alive inside the hive were completely exposed to the elements for about a week. The elements included high winds, rain, freezing rain, hail and snow. Hence, the title of this post: These Bees Should Be Dead.

Not exactly what you like to find when visiting a beeyard in the winter. (January 2019.)

When I approached the hive, I didn’t expect the bees to be alive. I found dark soggy clumps of dead bees on the back edges of the top bars. Some burr comb over the top bars had lost its colour from being exposed to the elements. The frames were soaking wet with a sheen of mould growing on the surface. Ice clogged up the bottom entrance. So yeah, I expected to find nothing but dead bees inside that hive.

But I didn’t.

00:00 — Discovering winter hive with its top cover missing. (Jan 26, 2019.)

02:00 — Ice under concrete blocks can cause blocks to slide off.

02:45 — Defensive bees often mean they have a queen to protect.

04:20 — Two months later. (Mar 31, 2019.)

04:40 — Bees covering most of the top bars.

05:50 — Reducing hive down to single deep. Looking good.

07:10 — April 14th, 2019. Review of recovery work.

Added deep full of honey and pollen supplement.

10:00 — April 19th, 2019. Hive full of defensive bees.

Added some extra drawn comb.

11:35 — Using ratchet straps instead of bricks.

12:05 — How I saved the bees.

I gave them pollen substitute (protein) and dry sugar. They ate the protein and tossed the sugar. I reduced the hive down to a single deep as soon as it was warm enough to open the hive. I continued to feed them protein. Once the bees were filling most of the single deep, I added another deep full of honey along with two frames of drawn comb in the middle. I continued to feed them protein patties. The bees ate away much of the honey and the queen immediately filled the space with eggs.

Did the brutal hit of winter weather toughen them up? They were certainly more defensive for the longest time. All I know for sure is that five months after discovering the hive had its top blown off, the colony inside was so strong that I had to make a split from it. It turned out to be one of the strongest colonies I’ve ever had.