Needless to say, I was pretty bummed out about losing one of my two hives over winter. It sucks to lose a hive! Especially after caring for it, giving it extra TLC, and watching it thrive for so long. But, such is the life of a beekeeper. I always tell newbies (or is it new-bees?!) that they better get ready to witness some mortality. It might sound morbid, but it’s the reality (hey it rhymes!) It is rare, REALLY rare, to have 100 percent survival rates from year to year. Part of this is just nature at work – not all living things will survive. The other part is beekeepers facing new and worsening struggles, like the Varroa mite who was introduced to our continent in the 1980s. It’s just darn tough keeping bees alive!
But, life moves on. My next step is to determine what I ought to do with the equipment (boxes, frames, etc.) that remain from my hive that died this winter. Do I chuck it all and start over? Can I reuse it?
I did a visual assessment of my dead hive to determine why it died, which I discussed in my previous blog. My overall assessment found that it could have been an issue with Varroa mites or a failing queen. What I did NOT find was any signs of disease, like American Foulbrood (AFB). This is a nasty bacterial disease that will kill a hive and leave spores in all of your remaining equipment. Therefore, it is crucial to burn (literally light it on fire and watch it turn to ashes) any remaining equipment to avoid it from affecting other hives. I am thankful that I did not see dead/frozen brood that looked concerning. I feel comfortable reusing my equipment!
My hive that died left behind two full supers/boxes of honey frames. I ended up adding one of these boxes to my living hive who needed some extra food to get through winter (like the photo above). The rest of the equipment from my dead hive is still in its’ original location. However, I have closed up the entrances to ensure it doesn’t get robbed out by other bees. My next step will be to wait for a warmer day to do some housekeeping. I will sweep any debris from the bottom board, use my hive tool to clean up the tops and edges of all the frames, toss any frames that are older than about four years, and prepare my equipment to be the home of a new colony!
It’s not fun losing a hive over winter, but I’m thankful to be able to reuse my equipment. This could come in handy if I need to split my existing colony to prevent a swarm! There’s a lot working against us beekeepers these days, so being educated yet optimistic keeps me moving forward!
Keep your bees buzzin’ y’all!