I recently discovered that my Langstroth hives have both died over this past winter. In the video above, I perform an autopsy on the hives to try and determine what killed them.

In the first hive, it looks like the bees may have starved after a really long and cold winter. I believe I missed an opportunity to feed them in early spring. They only had a tiny bit of honey left and it was on the opposite side of the hive. In the second colony, I actually removed 10 full frames of honey from the two deep boxes – more than enough to survive the winter. I suspect the chalkbrood that had plagued them in the fall didn’t allow them to build up their colony to a size that was necessary to survive the winter.

I’ll be on the lookout for swarms this spring to get new bees to populate these sad, empty hives.

Aganetha Dyck has been creating artwork with tens of thousands of tiny helpers for years. Dyck – a Canadian artist – has collaborated with live honeybees to help her create some of the most stunning and fascinating sculptures using various materials and natural beeswax, provided by the bees.

The above video shows an exhibit called Guest Workers, which features live honeybees in action. Some of Dyck’s previous work includes figurines and other objects that have been covered with beeswax comb, directly from within the hive.

For more information, and plenty more photos, visit Dyck’s web site.

Aganetha Dyck sculpture

Aganetha Dyck sculpture

Aganetha Dyck sculpture

Chris InchA quick announcement: I will be participating in a talk on beekeeping next week in Kitchener, ON. The Kitchener Horticultural Society is putting on the seminar at the Country Hills Branch of the Kitchener Public Library.

This event is open to the public and free of charge, so if you’re in the area, come hear me talk about hobbyist beekeeping.

For more information, visit the KPL’s event page or the Horticultural Society’s info page.

Speakers: Chris Inch, Tom Epplett
Date: February 11, 2014
Time: 7:00 PM (2 hours in length)
Location: Kitchener Public Library – Country Hills Branch
St. Mary’s High School
1500 Block Line Road (near Homer Watson & Block Line)
Kitchener, ON

Chalkbrood at entrance

Yesterday was a beautiful day and I headed out to the hives to check up on them before the weather gets cool again and we head into winter. One of my Langstroth hives (which I’ve named L1) hasn’t really been doing so great recently. It hasn’t been “bubbling with bees” the way it was last year, nor has it been very productive. Also, the bees have been pretty irritable for the last month or so. All that being said, there was no obvious sign of problems (at least not to me). The queen has been laying, and there have always “enough” workers.

Yesterday I noticed some interesting “mummified” bees near the entrance and on the bottom board. I took some pictures of the bees and when I got home, I went through some of my reference books and of course, the Internet. My best guess is that this hive has a fungal disease called Chalkbrood.

Chalkbrood is a disease that affects honeybee larvae. It’s caused by a fungus called Ascosphaera Apis. I’m not sure how this colony would have gotten infected with Chalkbrood, but now I will be exploring treatments. This is a fungus and it thrives in damp locations, so my first order of business will be to add more ventilation to this hive. I will also reduce the size of this hive from 3 deep boxes to 2, removing some of the now-empty frames before the winter.

It’s a bit unnerving seeing the state of this hive so close to winter, and I fear they won’t survive the cold season. Luckily this does not seem to have spread to my other hives though. Fingers crossed.

Swarm of honeybees

A couple weeks ago, I noticed some queen cells in my top bar hive. At the time, I thought they were supersedure cells, but it turns out I was wrong.

On the evening of August 7, I got a call that my bees had swarmed to a nearby pine tree. This certainly caught me off guard. I knew there were queen cells in there, but I didn’t expect this colony to split and swarm, especially this late in the season. Unfortunately, this swarm left before I had a chance to retrieve them. I even reached out to some other local beekeepers, but they were gone by the morning of August 8 – hopefully to a nice new home.

This colony was originally a swarm that I captured early in the year. They are an extremely strong colony and excellent producers who work quickly and efficiently. I guess they also have a genetic trait that gives them a strong instinct to swarm.

Overall, I’m not too bothered that they have swarmed. It would have been nice to provide them with a new home and have another strong colony, but I’m happy knowing that this colony is going to be out in the wild, and reproducing.