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,