Sigh . . . it seems that almost everything I've been told to expect to happen with my hive about this time of year hasn't.
About a month ago I reported that the lower brood box was full of honey with very little brood and the queen not laying, but with little honey stored in the upper brood box. I kep feeding them 2:1 syrup, and watching as the hive seemed to gather in health, lots of activity on sunny days, no dead brood or deformed bees being dragged out, and a good population. Well, today was the end of week six with the medications, and with a fairly warm day as forecast, I went into the hive to look, remove the medications and winterize. I was dumbfounded by what I found.
Sometime during the course of the past two weeks, my queen laid about two full frames worth of eggs!
It would be a beautiful sight to see, any other time. Frames 3, 4 and 5 on both sides with nice patches of capped brood, good pattern and filled in nicely. A small patch on one frame with a dozen or so drone cells. A few newly-minted bees were in the process of chewing their way out. And there were empty areas on other frames indicating where other brood had recently emerged.
Yeah -- empty comb. I estimate that half the honey that was in the full brood box a month ago is gone. Apparently, when the colony began returning to health after the mite invasion, the bees decided to take their winter stores and make more bees. So now, it seems, I'm faced with the prospect of a hive growing in population by several thousands within the next few days or week, reduced food stores, and winter closer than before.
Oh, and by the way, the upper brood box was still empty of honey. Packed with pollen, and the foragers keep dragging back more.
I would be less concerned if the colony was taking syrup faster than it is. Right now, I can expect it to take, at most, half a quart of syrup per day. On a nice day. Perhaps they'll take it quicker as more bees "come online," but then, there will be fewer nice days coming. We've already had a few nights in a row where the temperatures fell into the low 20s, and the daytime temps have bee in the mid-40s. But, just as Jersey weather goes, we're forecast for daytime highs in the upper 50s for the next week. Who knows how long such weather will last?
So I didn't completely weatherize. I removed the inner cover and feeder jar and re-installed the entrance feeder. I shimmed out an upper entrance and placed the sugar board on top. But I didn't insulate and I didn't wrap. Not yet.
I dunno what to do. They're healthy, breeding, and gonna starve. Can a hive be successfully wintered over in one brood box with sugar on top? If I put a terrarium heater in there, would they be inclined to keep taking syrup from the feeder, or would they just continue breeding?
Hoo, boy . . . what a mess . . .