Through the winter 2016/2017; Northeast, USA

One hive did not make it; was dead by January. They had requeened very late or did not successfully requeen we believe. I wrote about that a while back.

Second hive seemed quite robust with cleansing flights during odd warm weather spells in January, then again in February and for first week in March. Going into winter, it was a busy hive. It had one brood box and I had left them with one full super (8 frames) full of honey. I had added a pollen patty for good measure. The hive had Apivar treatment in Fall and OAV in January.


Not much fun…would it be possible to wrap some insulation around some of the hive to keep heat in and cold out? I guess there is no way of condensing the hive? Probably too disturbing for the remaining bees? Was any pollen coming in on the bees legs?

I tip my hat to all of you that don’t let the difficulties make you throw in the towel. The sheer grit and determination never fails to impress me.
Hopefully things will get easier. With people like yourself bees aren’t in trouble.
May the sun shine and a few swarms fly your way.


I would do what you are doing. Let them get on with it for a another week or two. If there are dead bees in the hive, I would guess that they are still clustering a lot of the time and the numbers are not high enough to spare any bees for undertaking duties yet. I used to give them a bit of a hand by carefully sweeping out the floor of the hive with long metal rule through the front entrance. This is difficult with the Flow hive because of the raised threshold at the entrance, but it might be worth a quick try.

When you look in a couple of weeks’ time, if the queen doesn’t show a good laying pattern, I might consider ordering a replacement at that point.

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Are you sure the bees you saw belong to that hive and aren’t robber bees? I lost 1 or 2 more hives during that last cold snap. I can usually tell by looking at the front of the hive if it’s robbers or normal hive activity.

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Mmmm I’m not one for leaving them alone like that. I would be straight back and put them in a nuc box, nice and warm. Do you have a poly nuc box by any chance?
You can do all that without tearing them apart. A look for brood can be done another day.
I’ve saved many a colony by keeping them warm and snug
Chilli has a really good point about robbers. Maybe you could close up the box just for one morning. If there are bees trying to get in then you have robbers

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I like @Dee’s idea too, if you can get your hands on such a box. Make sure the entrance is small too if there are only a few bees.

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I’ve been to Pennsylvania in mid winter. Absolutely beautiful but it was cold. Sorry for my confusing post. By condensing I meant make smaller…not condensation. I’ll take a guess with my limited experience and say I reckon the cold weather over winter reduced your numbers. I’d reduce the entrance to at least half with a piece of wood (I shaped a piece here with a plane). That will immediately help reduce the risk of robbing. If you are going to leave them “as is” like you initially thought you would, I’d wrap the hive up at night in a blanket. You must be about to burst into spring so you never know your luck. If they are bringing a bit of pollen in…could be ok…

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The great news out of all this is that you still have bees! I had a colony that had dwindled down to a grapefruit-sized cluster on three frames from what used to be a full, double-deep brood chamber with a super of honey.

After pondering what to do while laying in bed and staring at the ceiling (I couldn’t sleep thinking about how to help them), I resolved to reduced that colony down to a nuc and did so the next day. After all, that was a TON of empty space and the leftover stores were ripe for the pickings.

Eventually, the queen started an itty-bitty patch of brood. I thought it was pretty neat that the queen was laying a pattern only as big as the surviving bees could cover. The bad part of that was that the brood was only about 15 cells in diameter and it would take forever to grow the colony. That’s when I stole a frame of capped brood covered in bees from another hive to give to them.

Do you have any friends up there that can help you to boost their population by giving you a frame of brood?



If it’s not too late… I just might try your great idea. I should have thot of that but don’t ! I’ve got one very small colony cluster in a larger ten frame Langstroth … They got hit late in the early winter n got thru the snow n winter but seem to be dwindling as winter bees slowly die off.

. Here’s my 10 framer … Bees when I looked last seem to be a small cluster on part of the middle frame n dab on both frames at either side. I don’t have a poly-Nuc but new 5 frame Nuc’s n one Obserser box.
These boxes n parts are all at my disposal !

I have one deep frame full of honey on one side. The observer Nuc’s would be the easier to control the entrance I think. This would help control any possible robbing.

. Here’s my last frame of honey.

I could wrestle thru my two die-outs n see if I have a pollen frame as well. The would give them both honey n pollen.

We are suppose to get one or two days of milder temps either this Thursday or Friday (maybe bọt). Thật would be the day I could safely pull off the switch about mid-day when it’s warmest.

I believe if I can loosen the center three frame together n lift together that would allow the least disturbances. Then side the honey frame as one wall frame n a pollen frame on other side as a second wall frame opposite side. Hmmm, just might work if they’re not too far over the proverbial HILL.

What do you think Dee n others reading… I’d sure like to SAVE good old “Birch Hive” if possible.

Any thots are surely welcome !!!


Well…bees being insects, they like it warm. 68 degrees f is good isn’t it? I think keeping the hive smaller is often good for this whilst numbers and temps. build. I think winters in parts of the US can be pretty cold and I’m surprised more people don’t wrap their hives up a bit with some exterior insulation.

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sorry to hear of your dwindling colony- lets hope spring brings abundance and they can bounce back. Definitely try and get yourself on a swarm list with local swarm catchers and even consider trying to put out some swarm traps- are there many wild colonies near where your at? here’s an interesting article about sourcing local bees with natural resilience:

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Yep…go for it. It’s amazing how they can bounce back if they are kept nice and warm

Move the old hive to one side.
Put nuc in its place
Put useable frames into it. Shake the rest of the bees into the nuc box. Take the old hive completely away.


If you’re going to do that get a nuc with a solid bottom board.


I like this advice. I am dropping screened bottom boards for all of my new colonies. Too many issues with ants and moths hiding down there. The Flow one is well designed, but the mesh has gap issues if the slider is in the lower slot. I would rather just have a solid one and let the bees have easy cleaning duties.


It’s not surprising how many people here are moving back to solid floors


So glad to hear that cowgirl!! This year my mum had a similar scare- her hive came through winter brilliantly and did well into early spring- then she noticed what seemed to be a big decline in bee numbers- from seeing many bees in the flow window she went to only seeing a few. She reported just a bee or three at the entrance. No honey was seen in the flow frames. We all became convinced something awful had happened and scheduled an inspection.

By her reports I became convinced we were going to find some kind of wax moth beeless mess… but then when we did inspect we found the hive full of healthy bees and no issues at all! We think perhaps it may have swarmed- or else for whatever reason visible activity just declined a lot for a period. Anyway it was quite a relief after fearing the worst. Hope your inspection experience is similar. :cowboy_hat_face:

This is kind of like situations my brother refers to as ‘the art or rediscovery’ situations- where you lose something- go through the grieving process- finally accept that it’s gone for good- get over it and move on- then find it again after all. It’s almost better than when you first had it.


Feedback like yours is what makes giving advice so rewarding, thank you for taking the time to write it! When any of us suggests something, it is hard to be sure whether it was the right thing. After all, we aren’t there ourselves, we all make mistakes, and we can all learn from others. It is very nice to hear the outcome, whatever that may be. So @Cowgirl, you rock too! :guitar: :sunny: :bee: :honey_pot: :horse:

So you learned something, you got some more experience and we all feel good for you. :blush:

Hope you are recovering from the flu - I heard that it is bad this year, and the flu shot didn’t work too well as they picked the wrong viruses in the vaccine cocktail. :cold_sweat: