One is Better than None
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So a little bit of sad news today. The split hive, as I suspected, has died. I'm still working on a hive autopsy as it was not starvation (plenty of honey and sugar left), nor was it freezing (there was a fairly large cluster and tons of dead bees on the bottom board.
Since this hive had high mite counts in the fall (10 mites/100 bees or 10%), I suspect high viral loads contributed to the colony loss. This is despite the fact that an alcohol wash on the dead bees revealed very few mites. Just goes to show how devastating Varroa mites can be. Even when you get their numbers down, they carry and can activate a host of bee viruses.
However, did see something pretty weird. In the dead hive were a lot of dead drones. This is strange because all of the old drones should've been kicked out for the winter and it is too early for a hive to be producing new, spring drones. So, there may also have been an issue with the queen failing and producing only drone brood? Additionally, one of the dead drones had his endophallus everted (his male reproductive organ hanging out). Going to ask an expert and get back to you.
Good news is that the Flow Hive itself had a ton of activity and foragers bringing in pollen! This is a great sign that there is a healthy, laying queen present. They also had plenty of sugar stores present even though the hive was really light when we moved it to its new location in the full sun. The lack of weight means that they are out of liquid honey stores.
The next hive check may be a team effort (weather depending) and involve adding a box of comb to give the colony more space and possibly adding sugar syrup feed.
What could we have done to save the split hive? It may have been a better idea to combine the two hives in the fall and overwinter one strong hive instead of two weaker hives. That being said, if the split hive did have a high viral load, we may have ended up with no hives this spring, so hard to say what the "best" plan might have been.
That being said, I am super excited about the Flow Hive overwintering and the Flow Hive Team's year to come!
If you would like to join the A2B2 Flow Hive Team or would like to know more about the Flow Hive in general, please contact Jen Haeger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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What is a Flow Hive?
A Flow Hive is a Langstroth-style hive system with plastic frames which allow honey to be harvested directly from the hive. www.honeyflow.com/pages/how-flow-works