Today is June 15th, and Seattle has yet to break past 75° F/24° C this year. This means it’s been a great spring for growing grass, but the rainy weather has taken a toll on my apiary.
March this year was warm & abundant, and my hive from last year emerged from winter and just boomed with a major flowering from the big leaf maple trees. The bee population was increasing so fast during March’s sunny weather that I was worried about them swarming. So I split them. Half went with the old queen in the old hive, and the rest were split equally into 3 “nucleus” hives, and made new queens. Things were easy, life was good, spring was warm, and the new queens emerged, mated and started laying. I transferred one nucleus hive into a 3 ft. Top Bar Hive and moved it over to a friend’s house in Bellevue.
…And rainy weather returned.
Spring farming season kicked in, and I stopped monitoring the hives as much as they needed. About 2 weeks ago, I saw drones being expelled from the original hive. This means that they were running out of food, so I put in about a pound of crystallized honey. The bees cleaned it up in a couple days, and a couple of warm days made me relax a bit. Last week I did another walk through of the hives, and found a layer of lethargic bees on the entrance of that same hive. I put in another pound of honey, but this time it was too late to do any good, and the hive did not recover.
To make matters worse, we let the cows graze the pasture where the bee hives were placed, and one of them bumped the cover of the nucleus hives some. This exposed two frames to the rain, and it also effectively removed the partition between the two hives under that single cover. The bees on the wet side wisely decided to move in with the bees on the dry side. Result: my two nucleus hives merged into a single but larger group of bees, and one of the two young queens died.
The silver lining here appeared on Friday, when I transferred the one remaining nucleus hive into it’s own top bar hive. It had a good population of bees–enough to keep it viable. I now have no more conventionally configured Langstroth hives–all 3 remaining hives are in top bar boxes. Although there is still the occasional rain shower, the days are not the continuous Seattle drizzle that killed my other hive. I’ll keep a close eye on them for the next week or so, and feed them if they need it. Summer will come soon, and hopefully they will increase enough in July & August to be strong enough to prepare for winter.