Here we go again....
I tend to be overly optimistic, which most of the time is a good trait, but sometimes it makes me overlook obvious issues. Here is bascially all that is left of my blue long hive. I opened all three hives on February 8, 2023. I was pretty sure all three were dead because there was zero activity in spite of some mild weather.
The long blue hive most likely swarmed late in the season. I had noticed that the honey in the middle section was gone before winter and that the population was noticeably less. Most likely they swarmed too late to re-queen. At the top you see the remains of a very small cluster of bees. In spite of the main honey stores being gone, there was honey in the broodnest area and it appears the small population survived for a little while on that before just dwindling to a number too small to survive. I cleaned this hive out in preparation for re-populating in the spring.
The tan long hive was clean as a whistle. No dead bees, no honey. That means that it had probably gone queenless early in the summer and any activity I thought I saw all summer long was mostly robbing. Again, just over optimism. However, in my defense, that hive was always grumpy and to be honest, I am not sorry it died!
The vertical hive had never been vigorous all summer long. It had a small dead cluster and a small amount of dead bees on the bottom board and plenty of honey to have survived, so it definitely wasn't starvation.
I realized that although the hives did better than in past summers, it still wasn't the kind of vigor I had seen before Mr. Commercial Beekeeper began to keep bees near me. I did not see hives in the usual places over the summer, but I did see his bee trucks going up and down my road with equipment. At one point I walked down the road and searched for the hives and did not find them. My conclusion is that they were on the far side of the gravel pit where I couldn't see them, but they still had some impact on my hives. I feel like the impact is lessening year by year, so my eternal optimism will say that hopefully this year will be better yet.
I took down the vertical hive and cleaned up the equipment and crushed and strained five quarts of honey. I have more in frames I can extract when the weather gets warm. I ordered two nucs from Mary Bouma which will not be ready until May. I plan to just populate the two long hives for this summer. Since most people can find a lot of information on how to keep bees in vertical hives, I decided I will do what works best for me. I still plan on doing field days, but will most likely have to adjust the schedule.