This photo was taken on December 26, 2019. Look carefully. This was a beehive that had a live, strong colony of bees in it when I closed it down for winter in September. Do you see any bees at all? I didn't. Not one, dead or alive. The wax on the bottom of the hive - the debris you see is just from a mouse chewing up brood comb. There were at least six full deep frames of honey, which I harvested. There were several more partially full, which I will save for another time.
The other hive was also dead. It had dead bees on the floor of the hive and a small cluster spread throughout several frames of dead bees, starved out in completely empty frames. There were a couple of full frames on the outside edges. Still, the number of bees seemed to me to be at least half of what I would have expected to see if the whole colony just died out, based on how big and strong the colony was in September. There were queen cells in this hive, so I suspect it may have been queenless or become queenless. It was difficult to tell if any of the dead bees were drones. That is usually an indication the hive went into winter queenless, if they did not kill the drones going into winter. Drones are usually easy to identify because of their large eyes, so I am thinking this hive went queenless after they were gone, especially since none of the queen cells had anything in them at all, no eggs or larva and definitely were not capped.
So, what happened? I can't help but think the empty hive was killed by the mosquito spraying done in late September. The home owners of the property opted out, but they heard the planes flying over. They covered the hives, but the spray would have been on the forage in the dew the next day, which the bees would have come in contact with. We had a short stretch of extreme cold in November, which could have killed a weakened hive, especially if they couldn't move to new stores. I will probably never really know.
I will most likely move my hives again in the spring, or I may take a year off, I am not sure. I have until April to decide. I cleaned up the equipment and brought all the insides of the hives home. All that is out there is the hives themselves. I did learn that waterproof tape is not enough to hold on the insulation, so the tar paper was mostly off. I do not think that impacted their mortality because they still had the insulation on, which was stapled on.