Sadly, not one of our beehives survived the winter. In a couple of cases we were not surprised – the hives were already weak going into winter and their chances for survival were slim. But we had not anticipated that our strong hives would also succumb; particularly after we had had 100% overwintering success in the previous year.
By February, only 2 out of 5 hives still had a tiny cluster of bees. And by March those were dead too. Examining the hives, we found the same picture in every one of them: lots of remaining honey stores, no visible signs of disease such as nosema, but a deep layer of dead moldy bees on the bottom of the hive. It’s very puzzling. And other Seattle beekeepers have reported similar experiences.
At least we were able to save some of the remaining honey. In the end it added up to about 40 pounds of wild flower and knotweed honey. It’s really delicious, but we would have preferred to harvest the honey under different circumstances.
As disheartening as this experience was, we are not going to throw in the towel. We enjoy having bees too much; and I’m confident we will eventually figure out the right combination of factors that will enable us to have more consistent success.
Combs can look strikingly different, due to both age and color of the contained honey.
A nearly perfect top bar comb. This will yield about one quart of honey.
Yes, that bowl is full of honey!
The dark jars on the right contain knotweed honey. It tastes a bit like molasses and is very good.
Melting and cleaning the bees wax.
A disk of bees wax. We’ll be using it for salves and candles.