Walter is dead. There is no other way to put it. Everyone knows much of the US has been in a deep freeze for the past few weeks. There was a major snowfall here on December 16 and a lot of that snow is still on the ground. I was able to check on my bees on December 27 and posted that I could hear activity in Ora and, on that day, there were many bees outside of Walter. I was able to feed that hive for a couple of days before the really cold weather set in. I was encouraged that both hives were showing activity and good signs of life. I had not seen any bees since December 29. Our temps have barely been out of the 20's and many days not above the teens and morning lows have ranged between 3 and 9.
Our temps finally warmed to the upper 40's today and by midday I could see bees out flying. I headed for the garden and before I even got to the hives I was a bit concerned. I could see many bees flying out of Ora but none around Walter. I immediately removed the entrance reducer on Walter and sadly saw many, many dead bees on the screened bottom board. I rapped on the side and could hear no sound from inside. Having decided that the hive was probably dead, I went ahead and opened it. Sadly, all the bees inside were dead. Quite simply, they had starved to death.
Walter had been a strong hive going into fall and there was a full, shallow super of honey that I thought, along with the honey in the brood box, would suffice for the time the bees were clustered during the cold weather. I took out most of the frames in the shallow and most all the honey was gone. The obvious sign of starvation was the many bees headfirst in the empty cells. Tomorrow, as the temps rise even more, I will take the rest of the hive apart and look for any other signs of why the hive might have failed. I think they just ate themselves to death. Even though Ora still feels quite heavy, I will feed for the next few days if the bees will take the sugar syrup.
Walter was named for my grandfather who has been my inspiration to garden and keep bees. My grandfather was a wonderful, but stubborn man. He didn't like to fail and his granddaughter is much like him. I consider it a good, strong quality. I'm still very much a beginner beekeeper and I have so much to learn. I'll continue to ask questions, attend bee schools, read, read and read. I will not give up my organic practices because I don't think these bees were sick. I will rethink how I go into winter next year. There will be another colony of bees in Walter.
I posted the picture at the top to remind myself why I keep bees. My garden wouldn't be the same without them. Spring will come.