It is a beekeepers worst fear. Dead outs. We have three of them. All three colonies in the top box, none of them looked like they broke the cluster. We didn't leave much honey but it seems that would not have mattered. In at least one of the hives we found the dead bees were situated right next to a large rim of honey. They were simply too cold to move to the honey sources and starved to death.
It has been bitter cold here with temps dropping into the -60 degrees with the wind chill factor for several nights last week. I had very little hope that we would find any thriving colonies. Still it makes one very sad. I try to think of the silver linings, an opportunity to clean equipment, get rid of old comb and start new. Still, I am sad and as silly as it sounds I wonder what I could have done differently to save them. I know I don't have magical powers to fight old man winter but I can't shake the "bad beekeeper" feeling.
This is what it looks like to clean out the hive, a very grim sight indeed. We wanted to scatter as many of the dead bees as we could on the ground, the bees will make for good compost in the spring. We only got through the top two boxes of this hive and left a box full of bees to deal with later. Altogether we took four boxes down.
Winter, usually it is a time for the beekeeper to wait. We wait patiently to see who will survive the cold. The work room is filled with the scent of comb. We can dip beeswax candles, stir honey into yogurt, inventory and clean equipment but mostly we wait to see. It can be hard, all that waiting, not knowing.
For me the waiting is over. I know what I face, total replacement. I am spending hours tinkering with equipment, reorganizing, making lists and making strategies for two bee yards this spring. There is new equipment to be ordered, old equipment to be repaired and painted and the opportunity to be still and be quite and listen. These are good days even if the bees are gone.