2016 proved to be a profitable year in terms of honey and colony production.  The surviving hive from the previous year produced over 50lbs of honey and split twice.  It was the winter of 2017 that proved rather harsh and we were particularly upset the older hive perished in late January. The autopsy showed they broke cluster and failed to recluster during a sudden drop in temperatures.  :(

(Pictured left: Scout assisting in the autospy.  We'd have more pictures but someone at the lab dropped their phone in the toilet.  Then the second set of pictures was lost from a Nougat update bricking the phone. It was one of those years.)  
2015 Apairy News:  With the loss we experienced last year, we decided to begin with 2 packages this Spring.  Our choices are between packages - a box of bees with a queen in a little cage; or a nuc - a box of drones, workers with a mated queen.  Aside from cost, packages and nucs have some differences which need to be sorted according to preference and circumstances.

Packages are often less aggressive as they have no queen or brood to defend.  A nuc can be attractive though as it's much easier to add to the bee yard and the possibility of getting honey the first year is greater.  In the first year a package will be about two months behind a nuc, so depending on flow and hive growth this could be an issue to some while others would prefer to save any first year honey for spring feedings. 

That is what we did with 2014's leftover frames of honey (so nope, they didn't die of starvation either). We kept it for the two packages we decided to get and also kept some back for further spring feedings.  That worked out as after we installed the packages we got a call to see if we'd take some stressed nucs in addition to our packages, so it was good we saved it.  We won't be doing that again however.

2014 Apairy News:  Associated Press reported 5/14/2015 in "Survey: Almost half of all bee hives in the U.S. died in the past year": "More than two out of five American honeybee colonies died in the past year, and surprisingly the worst die-off was in the summer, according to a federal survey." "Oklahoma, Illinois, Iowa, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Maine and Wisconsin all saw more than 60% of their hives die since April 2014..."

Sadly, our loss was 100%.  For unknown reasons and similar to many others mentioned in the above article, our queen died around July of last summer too.  We didn't discover, or should say, suspect this until around August as we weren't sure if the cells we found were swarm cells or supersedure cells.  We also couldn't find a queen during inspection and some of the cells were already empty; so due to the uncertainty, we decided to split the hive and take a chance with two small hives; instead of removing a few of the cells and *hoping* or wasting time letting any further hatching queens fight each other with the single hive.

Initially, that seemed to work.   Everyone was happy, the main hive ended up having an existing queen and the two cells that were included in the split worked it out (well, one killed the other as they often do).  They were both small and still alive in December but we cannot be certain after that.  We found one hive dead still clustered and the other was in what looked like suspended animated death in early March of this year.  It appeared they warmed up, began normal activities and just froze mid-step.  Creepy looking and sad but moreso creepy looking which is why the bleach water came out before the camera could. 

As for disease, none was readily apparent.  We don't have a problem with varroa mite (yet..*crossing fingers*; however it often doesn't become a problem until year 2 or 3). Count boards consistently produced none. One varroa mite was found on a bee *outside* the hive but it was removed before she flew back into the hive.  While uncertain, we just didn't see any visible evidence of parasite or disease being the cause for our deaths.  We did save a bag of bodies for testing though so we shall see what that produces..and it wasn't a complete loss despite the 100% hive loss as we did learn a number of lessons we were able to apply in 2015.