We monitored the hives for several weeks to make sure that all four hives were thriving after the walkaway splits.  We got a surprise snowstorm in St Louis the week after our splits which complicated matters.

The bees of west hive clearly have dysentery.  The brownish yellow spots on the front of west hive are bee diarrhea.  The bees were weak from the splits and they were not in a good place to fight off illnesses when the weather turned nasty.  Bees get diarrhea for the same reasons that humans do including communicable diseases (stomach bugs), poor quality food (little fresh food in wintery weather), stress and being cooped up away from a toilet when you need to go.

North hive is opened up.  They had a little bit of dysentery but seem to have bounced back.  There are plenty  of bees in this box.

On closer inspection, north hive is doing very poorly.  All of the brood have hatched and it doesn’t look like they have a new queen laying eggs.  They may have had a queen but she left with a swarm.  Or they could never raise one due to the battle with dysentery.  This hive appears to have run out of supplies.  They will all be dead in a week or so unless we get a queen in here immediately.

Kirk opens up east hive which is the oldest hive.  We are hoping that it has a queen that they either raised or the old queen who is approximately two years old.

Lots of brood!  This box has a laying queen.  These brood are less than two weeks old and we did the split about 4 weeks ago.  If there was no queen then the box would look like north hive with no brood and no stores.  This queen is doing such a great job that the supers and the brood box are all full of baby bees.

Colorful little pollen stores in between these healthy brood.  This is likely the old queen still alive because she has really been getting a lot of work done and this population is super strong.

We spot the queen of east hive on a brood comb.  We make a split second decision to throw this frame into north hive to give those bees a shot at surviving.  The bees of north hive will not fight this queen or progeny on this comb because these bees are so genetically similar to them.  This queen was likely their queen from before the split.  East hive has plenty of young brood to try to rear an emergency queen from.  If it works then we will get two successful hives.  The weather is warmer and north hive looks to be over it’s stomach flu.

Last look at the east queen (now north queen).  We hope this is not the last time that we see her.   Notice that some of the bees wings appear to be wet.  We are going to try to use spray bottles of essential oils and sugar water for bee calming.  The essential oils contain lemongrass which is calming because it is similar to queen hormone.  The formula also contains peppermint oil.  The peppermint oil and sugar distracts the bees and sends them into a cleaning frenzy.  More cleaning means less bee disease like dysentery or varroa mites.  The formula we used is commercially available as honey bee healthy.  Mix it with a sweetener and water in a empty cosmetic spray bottle available at Walgreens.  We misted the bees lightly while still using some smoke.  The bees appeared to be calmed more by the HBH water versus the smoke and there is the added benefit of increased cleanliness.

West hive is gone.  All bees and brood still there are dead.  Most of the combs in there were completely empty.  Adult bees did not appear malformed at all as if they froze to death or starved.  No pests observed in the hive but dysentery streaks on combs and inner lid.  Almost all honey and pollen stores are gone.

Brood still in combs were dead with tongues sticking out as if they also starved or froze to death.  No odor coming from combs.  Texture of dead bees and brood are very normal.  Probably they lost many nurse bees to dysentery and were not able to keep themselves warm and fed with decreased caretaker abilities.

Totally normal dead bees on screened bottom board.  Maybe the bottom board made the hive more drafty so the small cluster of sick bees was not able to fight the wintery weather as easily.  West hive will need completely repopulated.  We removed the combs with dead brood and will transfer them to a stronger hive so the healthy bees can clean them and reuse any materials that are still good.  If the hive appeared to be killed off by pests like varroa, chalk brood or foul brood then we would not reuse the supplies but instead burn them.  Signs that the bees died from disease would be odors, slime, many varroa mites on bottom comb, and larvae from moths or beetles. 

South hive has many bees and many ants!  The guard bees and propolis blockades are keeping the ants out of the inner boxes.  But the ants are trying to make a home in the sheltered lid area.  Ants and bees will coexist together often.  The ants take advantage of shelter created by the hive and waste products from the bees.  We will remove these ants and apply more epsom salt around the hives again to stop the ants from gaining access to the hives.

Time for better news.  South hive is very strong and appears to be maturing new honey stores already.  There were many hive beetles present in this hive so we will be salting the earth again and misting all equipment with HBH sugar solution.

The bees of south hive are busy making swarm cells.  Very busy!   There were 12 swarm cells on this comb alone.   Their population is thriving so they thing that they are strong enough to reproduce by swarming.  We did the splits to stop this behavior from happening.

We moved some brood combs from south hive to west hive and placed these swarm cells in the west hive.  The bees will have a new queen when one of these hatches.  That queen will swarm with a few bees or kill the other queens through their cells and make west hive her home.  We lost this hive completely so we have to put a queen or queen cells in this hive along with plenty supplies.  If we are lucky then the hive will have a new queen laying eggs in a few weeks.

Chris salts the earth again with epsom salt.   The epsom salt will dehydrate bee pests like small hive beetle larvae or ants when they attempt to crawl though the salted earth.  The epsom salt kills pests without being toxic to bee or dangerous for the consumer.  Still trying to keep everything chemical free in our raw honey production.  Honey imported from areas like China is full of antibiotics and toxins.  It makes the honey easier and cheaper to produce but kills bees and is poisonous for humans.

Chris unpacks and cleans old equipment from last year.  Combs are put in the deep freeze to kill any pests then wrapped in plastic and stored in a cool dry place during the off season.  Chris is now washing the equipment in the yard with dish soap and water.  Leaving too many boxes on a hive in the winter makes it harder for the bees to keep things at a constant livable temperature in their winter cluster.

We added the super boxes back on to the hives.  The bees will clean and dry them as well before they start using them.  We misted everything with the honey bee healthy sugar water solution to encourage cleanliness.  Hopefully, adding the supers back to the old hive will make sure that the bees have plenty of room and will decrease the swarm urge.

Spring splits part two is over.  The weather is warmer and we added feeders full of essential oils and sugar water to help the bees survive the new splits.  We will leave the hives alone for a few weeks then check again to monitor progress.  If west dies again or north hive loses the queen then we will start to rethink the screen bottom boards.  They are better for natural pest control but maybe the bees are becoming too chilled with them on.