Hi all, I learned a ton in my first year with two hives... unfortunately I know failure is a big part of that curve. One hive was robbed out at the very end of the season; by the time I realized it, it was too late to stop and pretty much everyone was killed. I was encouraged that my second hive seemed to be overwintering well, right up through a couple weeks ago... then I checked in today, and they've also shuffled off to the great cloverfield in the sky.
There are lots of dead bees in between the frames, mostly in the bottom brood box but some in the top. A few have their heads buried deep in a cell like they're going for honey, but most don't and there is TONS of capped and uncapped honey all over both boxes. Many of the frames felt a bit damp and there was definite dampness and mold on the dead bees at the bottom, so I suspect it was a moisture issue. I made a moisture quilt for the top but I guess that wasn't sufficient. Per suggestions from Michael Bush and some others, since I wasn't sure how much food they'd need for a first winter, I topped the frames with a piece of newspaper and a pile of dry sugar. Probably half of the sugar had been eaten, but that piece of paper had also clearly been quite wet. I'm absolutely getting two new colonies in the spring and trying again. My specific questions are...
1. Where did I go wrong? My setup was solid bottom - two brood boxes - newspaper with dry sugar - inner cover - moisture quilt box - telescoping outer cover. Looking at the photo, is there enough ventilation in and out of the quilt box? Its underside is braced window screen. Maybe not enough moisture could get out through the opening of the inner cover - should I go without it, just put the quilt box directly above the brood box? What else am I missing?
2. I also have screened bottom boards instead for this year, will that help through the winter?
3. Considering the amount of uncapped honey/syrup, is that a sign that I overfed in the fall? That could also have contributed to moisture in the hive.
4. Once cleaned up (these ladies liked to propolize the crap out of everything), can I use these existing drawn frames as-is for my new colonies? It seems like that will give the new ones quite a head start, and these two apparently did really well for themselves in their first year. I'm not positive that's mold on some of the capped honey, but if so should I remove it?
5. Can I also leave the uncapped syrup for the new bees? Will it keep as-is or should I put it, say, in the freezer until then? It's not watery enough to shake out easily.
6. If I reuse the drawn comb frames, is it worth leaving all the capped honey too (there's quite a bit), or since that's the ultimate point should I just extract it and eat it? Because I'll eat it.
Bottom board with many dead bees and mold.
5 - Bottom b.jpg5 - Bottom b.jpg
Frame with uncapped and capped (moldy?) honey cells, some dead bees protruding from cells at the top.
1 - Butts.jpg
Close-up of capped (moldy?) cells.
2 - Mold.jpg
Frame of mostly uncapped syrup.
6 - uncapped.jpg
7 - Quilt.jpg
Thanks in advance. I'm pretty bummed out, but I just have to move on and do it better next time...