Frustrated in Richmond, VA
I'm not a newbee. Entering my 14th year. I do cutouts, trapouts, and build my own equipment and have Langstroth, TopBar, and will probably build some Warre this year.
This last year was really crazy. With the warm winter last year, I picked up my first swarm in March, and was slammed with calls for swarms and cutouts. Did maybe 5 successful trapouts, can't remember how many swarms and others. I really didn't expect most of these to make it through the winter. When you take hives out of a building in July/August, you pretty much destroy most of their comb (if you try to put it into a new box, they tend to abscond). So, they get their eggs and larva to tie them to the box, and the honey is processed or fed back (yeah, I know about the potential disease vectors, but all my hives are feral, and I always check the brood of the cutout for disease and trash anything that has ever had pesticide)
Anyway, the spring swarms grew enormously fast. Filled 2 deeps and 2 mediums on 2 of them, then they collapsed during the dearth because I believe the numbers were too high to be sustainable. The hives that were cutouts collapsed during the dearth because they had no stores. - yes, my lesson here is one of just being too busy to think about it - If you take out a hive in the middle of summer in a dearth, you're going to have to feed them until the fall, not just a few weeks..
I came into winter with several hives with good stores. Then in January, maybe about the 15th, it had been so warm that the Forsythia was in full bloom, and other trees started to bud out. So, my queens started laying. Yesterday, I opened a hive that was still doing well, and there was capped brood in a 5" diameter circle. My guess is on the other hives - since the other 2 at that location had capped honey which was being actively robbed out by one of my hives and the one in the tree 50 feet away, that the queens started laying, and the bees got in a situation where they were stuck keeping that larva warm, and the week of weather below 20 degrees caused them to get stuck and unable to reach out and grab honey in the neighboring frames.
So, I start the season (is it the start? - usually I don't start til after Feb 15) with 1/4 the number of hives I had at the peak of summer. I don't consider this Colony Collapse, or anything else. Poor management on my part. I should have fed the cutouts more than I did, should have put my entrance reducers on and maybe used an insulated cover early, and left even more honey on the hives.
Any other feedback? Anyone want to kick me when I'm down? I'm not taking chances for next year. Insulating covers, maybe some wraps, feeding my cutouts, putting my hives closer to each other for mutual warmth, leaving a little more honey on, and creating fall nucs in double nuc boxes.