Red Bucket Farm is an urban farm on a quarter acre property in an average residential neighborhood. We are located in Wisconsin, USDA Zone 5. We focus on chickens, bees, orchard fruit, and raised garden beds for fruits and veggies. We hope to reduce our footprint on the planet by growing some of our food, reducing our use of fossil fuels, and gardening with sustainable practices. Thanks for visiting!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Dead Bees

I'm sorry to report that the honeybees at Red Bucket Farm are all dead. It was not the polar vortex that secured their demise. I suspect the hive was dead before Christmas.

We last noticed bee activity in early December. Usually, we see some evidence of them over the winter. The housekeeping bees will toss dead bodies out into the snow, and little bits of bee poop will be obvious near the hive. But this year there has been no sign of life at all.

Due to various complications from the previous season, we entered the winter with only one populated hive. In the spring we will clean the dead hive and try to determine what killed them, but it's very likely this will remain a mystery.

I've ordered two 3-pound packages of bees (at $92 each!) to re-populate the hives in the spring. The packages will look similar to the photo above. We can use some of the comb and honey from last year to give the new girls a head start. If we're lucky and the weather is favorable, we can then divide one of the hives to populate our third hive box.

Meanwhile, I'm begging you to not use any lawn pesticides this spring. Urban bees fare better than rural bees because urban foraging opportunities are far more diverse than mono-culture farming methods provide. Nevertheless, lawn chemicals are completely toxic to bees. If a bee guardian can keep bees alive through the winter until the spring dandelions bloom, then all is well. Please remember,

dandelions = bee food


  1. Hi, I've read a few of your posts on beekeeping with interest as winter approaches here in the Hudson Valley in NY. This is the first year I've kept bees, and I too have been working with 3 top bar hives. I've been looking for tips on how best to protect the bees from another brutal winter, which many people believe is coming. So, I wanted to ask what you thought were your best tips for winter preparation. For instance, I liked your hive wrapping technique and wondered if you still are doing that? And the fondant idea for late winter feeding? Anyway, if you have any time, I'd be very appreciative of any thoughts you had.
    Thanks, and good luck this winter!

  2. HI Dave, Thanks for reading! I'll try to write a post about winterizing the top bar hives (soon), but until then remember to leave the honey for the bees in the fall. They'll need it to survive the winter. We always collect extra honey in the spring--contrary to Langstroth techniques. More later!