I hadn’t been into the hives in a couple months, so I didn’t expect things to be pretty, but I honestly didn’t expect them to be as bad as I found them. Both bottom boards were covered in a thick, swampy layer of decaying bees, ejected larvae, chewed wax and lots and lots of mold. It smelled pretty bad and I felt sorry for the bees having to live above that. They’d obviously done their best to keep a clean path from the frames to the door, but that’s about the best they could do. I took off both bottom boards, scraped them clean, washed them and then flipped them so they could get a clean start. Just as well, actually: the flip-side of the bottom boards are a bit shallower, which means they conserve heat better and are easier to defend in the winter months.
The frames themselves weren’t that bad off. The top box was still mighty heavy, which I took to be a good sign (they hadn’t moved up, which means they still had plenty of stores left to make it through the winter). I hope they know that they can move up though…I’d hate to find out that they don’t realize there’s a whole other box of honey they put away for the winter sitting right above them.
In any case, I didn’t go into the top box, just hefted it off and checked a few frames on the bottom chamber. It was pretty light, meaning they’d eaten through most of those stores. There was a bit of mold growing here and there, mostly on some uncapped cells and a bit on the bottom (where it was brushing against the bottom board muck…no surprises there). They’d begun to refill in the emptied cells of the frames with pollen, it looked like.
Hive 1 seemed to be doing pretty well, overall. The bottom board was relatively cleaner (but still mucky) and there’s lots of bees coming and going. Hive 2, on the other hand, was relatively empty. There was definitely a cluster in the front-right bottom area, but not nearly enough to sustain a hive. I’m thinking we’ll have to requeen Hive 2 in the spring and get some reinforcements for the girls, as well.
Hive 1 also seems to have a nasty case of Nosema. You can see the clear indication of it in the picture to the left. Those brown streaks coming out of the front are bee diarrhea. Julie mixed up some sugar syrup for them this afternoon and will add some Fumidil to it and give it to them in upturned mason jars with holes stuck in the tops, which should clear that up. Again, I’m not too surprised that they got a disease, with the dank stale swamp they’ve been living over.
Finally, last thing I did before I got out of my gear was to stick some pins in in front of the entrance reducer. I don’t have real entrance reducers, just blocks of wood I propped in front. That should be fine to help them retain their heat and protect against robbing yellowjackets and the like, but isn’t enough to hold off mice and rats looking for a sweet treat. Twice in the past month, I’d found the entrance reducers knocked off the front of the hives and even saw a rat turd. Luckily, they didn’t make it inside, or, if they did, the girls convinced them it was a bad idea. Go girls!