Dead bees and excess honey. That’s what we found yesterday when we got into our hive. Sadness and confusion abound.
The cold nights and blustery days of spring led us to postpone getting into the bees. We’ve wondered about them and checked them from afar. We watched orientation flights a couple of weeks ago. We looked for an signs of distress or swarming and didn’t see any while we were home, but we work long hours and, really, anything could happen while we’re gone.
I noticed last weekend that there wasn’t any activity around the hive but it was so windy that it didn’t raise much alarm. Then, last night, Tool Lady noticed the same…this time, without the winds. So, she got into the hive while I was still at work and found a little of what you see in the photos above. As soon as I got home we went out together to investigate and pull everything apart and I took about a million pictures.
We don’t think it was disease since the only questionable spot in the whole hive was on the one comb, in the third photo from the top (stupid moths), but it looks to me like that might have happened after the bees died. No mites, no other signs of disease. However, we are confused by all of the dead bees in the hive (definitely not a whole colonies worth), the space our hive still had to work with (plenty of space to build up brood and make more honey), and the volume of honey that was left behind (I’m guessing about 20 pounds of golden deliciousness).
Maybe our Queen was weak? There are signs of a few sporadic laying patterns. Maybe they swarmed and those left behind froze in their tracks without their friends to keep them warm? I really don’t know.
I would love to hear about your experiences with bees this winter (and beyond). We are such Newbies at beekeeping that we can look in books and google the internet for hours on end, but the truth is, no matter what we find, we’d still be guessing. Please share your stories, experiences, hunches, deductions…hopefully we can figure this out together.
As a silver lining to a dark cloud, a ton of delicious honey is being strained and stored and will be thoroughly enjoyed with the reminder that our pollinators must be honored and protected. Honey in tea is my favorite thing on the planet. And so life goes on.
UPDATE: A wonderful Facebook community chimed in and was able to offer a bit of insight into what may have happened to our beloved bees as well as some great conversation around the state of bees and our environment. Check out some of the feedback here.