“Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt – marvelous error!–
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.”
— Antonio Machado
I went out last weekend, in the sunshine, to find a cloud of active, healthy bees around my hive. John and I were happy for a moment, thinking that they were actually orienting bees, and the mite treatment had worked, but it turned out that it was a healthy colony robbing out the last dregs of my poor hive...
They killed off the very last bees in my hive, and were taking all the honey that they could take, which is actually kind of good for them, as it'll help them survive this fall, and the winter. The poor last spots of brood were dead or dying from lack of care, and it was just all pretty much gone.
A failure, truly, and I think I have a little more of an idea as to what went on. The mites were taking over badly, and the cold weather after I'd taken off the last super really didn't allow for there to be much nectar around. There was honey in the brood chambers, so they shouldn't have just starved, but the cold probably made it hard for them to get around, and there was no pollen to be had. Maybe if I'd put pollen patties on? I dunno, as some people really advise against it because it seems to signal spring to some brood, but it would have been what they needed when they needed it. Plus, I'd seen pesticide die off on the front step, so some of the girls had gotten into something they really shouldn't have.
It would have been better if I'd been able to treat them with mite treatment when I actually had ordered the stuff, 2-day postage, but they were unable to fulfill the order for nearly three weeks. So I was stuck and then the weather went freezing for another three days before I could go in. Better yet was if I'd gotten the Mite Away and actually applied it in July when I saw mite drop. Next time. Next time...
Honey from my mistakes...
Anyway... John and I pulled all the boxes that night, except for the lowest brood box that had half a dozen tiny native bees who were living on the honey and wax that night. They left in the morning, and I got everything into the garage. We just dumped all the foundation with pollen and the spotty dead brood, in case there was pesticide in the pollen, and cleaned off all the frames, and the remaining eight drawn comb full height foundation frames I've been rotating through our deep freeze to kill of wax moths, and then store, sealed in bags, in the garage for the next time I actually get bees.
Tim Brod is a local bee breeder, and he supplies queens, not so much workers, but it might be fun to buy from him next time, instead of from California. Someone kept saying that I should find a wild hive and claim it for my own, but I'm not going to bother native bees that are comfortable in their own habitat. A swarm? Maybe. But not an established colony.
In any case, I now have the winter off as a beekeeper, and the surprising thing is that while I have mourned the girls, and burned offerings in their memory. I loved having them a lot, but it's also something of a relief not to have to worry about them anymore... when there's a cold snap, I don't have to wonder how it's affecting them, and when it gets hot, I don't have to worry about how much ventilation they're getting.
Anyway... I was very glad I had them while I had them, and grateful to them for all they did for me and taught me.