Not much to report this month. A bout of food poisoning after Christmas pretty much kept me confined to the house until well past the middle of the month. Although I was happy with the stores situation in all of the hives going into Winter I decided to give them all a portion of fondant at the first opportunity and that wasn’t until half way through the third week. The weather for the first half of the month had been pretty grim but the morning of the 23rd looked quite promising so, armed with my fondant, I had already cut it into portions before leaving the house, I made my way to Mendip “C”. With the exception of hive one, there was quite a lot of activity at the entrances, so it was to one that I went first. Although hive one compared well with the others going into Winter, it was noticeable that the wasps were paying it a lot more attention than the others. Even with the entrance restricted down to one bee-space, the occupants seemed unable to keep the wasps out. As I said, hive one had plenty of stores and the numbers of bees compared well with the others but somehow the wasps had been able to detect a weakness with the colony and had obviously persisted with their attentions until they had weakened the colony beyond the point of collapse. The other hives and the two nuc’s. all looked in fine form. I only had the crown boards off for a moment but long enough to see plenty of bees clustering between the frames. I gave them all their fondant , boxed them up, and made my way back to the car. The sun had, by now, disappeared and with rain in the air, I decided to leave the meadow for another day and made my way home.
The weather for the next couple of days was pretty grim so it was nearly a week later that I was able to visit the meadow. Sadly, it was a similar picture there with one colony failing to over-winter. Like the colony at “C”, they had gone into Winter with plenty of bees and had emptied the Adams feeder full of syrup that they had received, this in addition to their own stores that they had already put down. It always saddens me to lose a colony, we try so hard to make sure that they are comfortable and well prepared for Winter.
As soon as the weather permits I shall strip both hives. Whenever a colony fails I strip out all the frames which then have the comb removed for burning, before being scalded. The boxes are then scorched before receiving a coat of Cuprinol. This will be the case with both of these hives but not before hopefully, they have been able to shed some light on why they failed.