I finally got into my hives for the first time this spring! I had to wait until Monday April 18th because I had to be away for the weekend. It was around 80 degrees and I knew the rest of the week would be cooler, so I got out there. This is an interesting picture of the dead cluster in my personal horizontal hive. That hive happened to have a marked queen. That is the red dot you see in the middle of the cluster. If she wasn't marked I would never have known she was the queen because she isn't really any different looking than the rest of the bees. So, I did have a queen, but the cluster was very small, so I assume she was not doing a very good job of laying, so the population dwindled and the cluster was too small to survive. There were not many bees on the bottom board, either. The good news is that the hive was dry and had plenty of honey. This queen was not new, so I am guessing she just aged out. I will work harder to make sure I have strong productive queens going into winter from now on.
I only lost one other of my personal hives. It also had a small cluster. I think it never really took off the whole summer, it was an early split. I have four very lively live hives, however. I took off the winter wrap and insulating blankets and entrance reducers. I checked down just far enough to find capped worker brood, but no farther at this point. I did not want to disturb them. All hives had fresh nectar and weren't even interested in honey leaking off frames taken from the dead hives. I also saw drone brood and a few adult drones in all the hives. These are all great signs that I can take a split off all four hives. I will use two to re-populate my personal dead hives and two to start the new hives in the experimental apiary. We will do that at the May field day, May 14, 2016.