Once again was saddened to note that the hive had not survived the winter, when I cleaned out the hive a few weeks ago. I popped open the cover and peeked inside. Unlike the least two years, my bees had thrived all summer and fall. They had put up a lot of honey and I was sure they would make it. Of course, later in the fall, I stopped watching what was happening in the hive. Actually, I did note a sudden reduction in the number of bees in the window when I peeked, but I didn't really think much of it. In hind sight, I should have known.
When I cracked the top and looked in, there were very few dead bees. This was a little surprising, but given that I had already seen it through the window in the fall, not terribly. I had noticed, and even recognized, the supersedure cell, but failed to act on the observation.
Supersedure cells are queen cells. Bees will form these cells, and raise new queens, in advance of swarming. I had seen them in the hive and did nothing. Some beekeepers, I have read, will destroy these in an effort to keep a new queen from spawning, which in turn keeps the hive from swarming. I did not. I also did not observe them leaving the hive in a swarm, and so could not catch the swarm and put it into the new hive that I built.
When I noticed the population drop, I figured they had swarmed and I had missed the event. I still held out hope that the hive would survive, which it did until January or February. Then, the weather took a nasty turn and we received a lot of snow in the last remaining months of winter. There was little honey left for the bees ... I assume swarms take honey, too.
So, when I opened the hive to clean it out in preparation for the package that was due to arrive this weekend, I expected to see one or two queen cells. What I found floored me! The bees had been very successful over the summer and early fall. I counted at least 13 supersedure cells in the hive. And, each of them had hatched, as evidenced by the opening in the bottom of each.
I hope that this year is the year that my bees can survive into next spring. At this point, I believe I have seen the bulk of the major issues that hives can have ... queenless, poor wind barrier, and now swarming. The new bees are a week later than expected, but should be in the hive by this time next week. And, if they swarm this year, I hope to catch the new swarm and hive them in the new hive.
This MooseBoots journey continues to show me how much I have to learn. Gratefully and with and open heart, I am willing to do so.