We've been busy, as you can see, getting ready for spring and hoping that our bees were tough enough to make it through the winter. We've checked on them periodically and have a few losses to report. We lost one hive in January and five in February. This is disappointing of course, mainly for the fact that we don't know exactly why we lost them. We have some theories, but no good evidence.
One potential reason for the loss is of course the weather. Bees know how to survive in cold spells typically. They stay in the hive and cluster up around the queen to protect her. They surround her and begin to shiver to produce friction and thus heat; they eat stored honey to produce the energy to shiver all winter long. As the bees on the outside fringe begin to get cold, the move towards the center, and bees in the center move towards the outside. We used to believe that as long as they had enough to eat, they would be fine during the winter. Yet, this winter we found hives of dead bees, some just inches from many frames of honey!
Another hive we found, we suspect fell victim to a laying worker bee. This can occur when the queen dies or leaves. Worker bees can only lay drone eggs (male bees). Male bees occur when the egg remains unfertilized. So strangely enough, drones have no father, but they do have grandfathers. (It's not quite as Jerry Springer as it sounds). Hives cannot subsist with a laying worker and eventually die out.
Mites are also another lethal foe to the honey bee or it could have been dysentery. Really, we have no idea. We will just keep trying to keep them fed and hope for the best.
We hope to have no further losses. We managed to save the honey in the lost hives to use in early spring to build up and hopefully split some strong ones we have left. Time will tell. Some times things go your way and sometimes you end up with a mess....