Tuesday April 14, 2015 the weather was warm - mid 60's and not too windy. We were able to get over and check our overwintered hives. Irene Day, Fran Galow, Kent and Peter Jackson joined the Abbotts in inspecting the hives. We checked the long hive first. The activity from the outside was much less than we had seen in the past, which concerned us, but there was pollen going in. When we checked inside we did find a small cluster of lives bees with capped brood (new brood, nice brood pattern, worker brood). However, closer to the entrance was an entire cluster of dead bees. It was very interesting because I was always told the bees all live or die together and if you have a dead cluster, the bees are dead. There were about 10 full frames of honey still on the hive, which we left for now. We took out the frames with dead bees, cleaned off the dead bees from the bottom board and moved the brood up closer to the front, making sure to not break up the brood nest. We left the empty space in the back, which we will fill with new frames the next time we go in.
Next, we checked the middle hive, which was dead. It did have a large dead cluster and it was completely empty, so we are not sure if it starved or was robbed out by the live bees. We cleaned up that area and set up a new hive for package bee installation.
Now we checked the vertical hive that had the foam insulation. It had a lot of activity, but only at the top entrance. We found an active colony with capped brood in the top. We moved down to check and also found a dead cluster near the bottom entrance in this hive. We cleaned off the bottom board, took off the bottom two boxes and put it back together in the same order because we didn't want to disturb the brood nest. It had a full box of honey in the middle of the hive. So, two hives, in different configurations had the same situation that is never supposed to happen - a live cluster and a dead cluster in the same hive. My theory is that it got so cold that the outside of the cluster died, but somehow the queen and the inside survived and were able to move out when the weather got warmer. Both hives were insulated, so I am sure that without the insulation, they would have just died.
We removed the insulation from the long hive. It will need a new lid because the lid leaked over the winter. We leveled and set up the hive for the package.