The beehive has died. I had suspected in February they were in trouble. During the first cold snap in January when I rapped on the side of the hive I could hear a lively healthy roar from inside. Bees clustered together for warmth but very alive. After the 2nd cold snap in February the rap on their hive wall brought not a roar but only a buzz. Later, warm days brought only a small number of bees out to sun on the porch. By early March the sound was gone. Yesterday was sunny, nearly 60 degrees in the afternoon, no bees, no sound, so we opened the hive. It was dead. The combs were empty of honey, only a small amount of pollen remained. There were lots of dead bees, many with their bodies buried deeply in the cells, they had run out of honey and had starved. There was a somberness to dismantling the hive, scraping off propolis and mold, brushing bee bodies from empty combs, examining, studying, learning, reflecting, mourning. A process much to common in the world of beekeeping today.
The good news- No signs of disease, no parasite or pest invaders seen, the presence of so many dead bees meant it wasn’t colony collapse disorder. I believe it is simply a case of new beekeepers, who gave it their best educated effort, meeting with a winter of many cold, wet, foggy days and a series of very cold weather events. A winter that needed more honey stores left in the hive and possibly artificial feeding to supplement them until Spring.
We look back on this our 1st year of beekeeping with thanks and awe and respect for these lovely, gentle and hardworking creatures. The bees taught us so much, gave so much pleasure, added a sense of completeness to the farm and in their demise a new sense of determination to do better next time.
The hive boxes will be cleaned, the frames of comb will be reclaimed or reused, a new package of bees is on order.