The girls are still going strong. I haven't stopped plying them with sugar. OK, so I realised that I got my sugar mix wrong and they have been taking too dilute a syrup. If I read my instructions properly I would have seen it should have been two four pound bags of sugar per four pints of water (4kgs/2litres - ish) Muggins here was only giving them four pounds per 4 pints of water (2kgs/2litres). Doh!
The gratifying thing is that at least they've been packing this weak solution away, but they have had to work hard to de-humidify it - sorry girls!
Anyway, despite my crap chemistry, I looked in the hive yesterday lunchtime to see just what they have done with all the sugar (currently about 18 litres of syrup) and where they have put it. Well the answer is that they have practically filled the top hive box! Only a little while ago (about 2 weeks) it was pretty empty. Now all 9 frames in the box are nearly full - a minimum of 80%. Interestingly, the frames in the bottom box remain empty of anything - brood, honey, pollen. At least from what I can see. But a lot of bees are crawling pver the frames - perhaps there is no room upstairs what with all the syrup stored?
Slightly more concerning however, is the fact that, alhough I was looking for her, I did not find my Queen. I'm no expert on bee husbandry or in bee psycology (or whatever it takes to know what they do), but my girls do not look, or appear to be acting without a purpose, and they are not just going through the motions without any care for themselves. I mean they've not turned into "Goth" bees, so I think Queenie must be there somewhere keeping the bonds tight. She may not be laying right now (it is winter afterall) but I reckon she is there, somewhere.
If she wasn't around would the others have left? Would they have been bothered to store anything? Without a Queen why would they bother? What would they have to gain? All they would be doing would be expending a lot of energy only to die off without raising another generation of bees. I think if I were in their situation, with no future, I'd be partying until I dropped! Mmmmm, lots of unanswered questions!
Anyway, what to do? I think nothing is the best thing - always consider the "do nothing" option I say! It's probably too cold, or too late, to replace the Queen if she has gone, and there would be no guarantee another would survive being introduced. So, if she died we would be back to where we started from. If she was there all along I would probably have just aggrovated the hive, for no reason. Either way, at this time of year when the queen is not laying, what would we achieve? I'll do nothing for a while. Hopefully if we get another warm day I'll find her and we'll all be good!