Experience is a brutal teacher. But you learn, my God, do you learn.

-C.S. Lewis



Stream In January

Stream In January

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Death In The Beeyard

Walter is dead. There is no other way to put it. Everyone knows much of the US has been in a deep freeze for the past few weeks. There was a major snowfall here on December 16 and a lot of that snow is still on the ground. I was able to check on my bees on December 27 and posted that I could hear activity in Ora and, on that day, there were many bees outside of Walter. I was able to feed that hive for a couple of days before the really cold weather set in. I was encouraged that both hives were showing activity and good signs of life. I had not seen any bees since December 29. Our temps have barely been out of the 20's and many days not above the teens and morning lows have ranged between 3 and 9.


Our temps finally warmed to the upper 40's today and by midday I could see bees out flying. I headed for the garden and before I even got to the hives I was a bit concerned. I could see many bees flying out of Ora but none around Walter. I immediately removed the entrance reducer on Walter and sadly saw many, many dead bees on the screened bottom board. I rapped on the side and could hear no sound from inside. Having decided that the hive was probably dead, I went ahead and opened it. Sadly, all the bees inside were dead. Quite simply, they had starved to death.


Walter had been a strong hive going into fall and there was a full, shallow super of honey that I thought, along with the honey in the brood box, would suffice for the time the bees were clustered during the cold weather. I took out most of the frames in the shallow and most all the honey was gone. The obvious sign of starvation was the many bees headfirst in the empty cells. Tomorrow, as the temps rise even more, I will take the rest of the hive apart and look for any other signs of why the hive might have failed. I think they just ate themselves to death. Even though Ora still feels quite heavy, I will feed for the next few days if the bees will take the sugar syrup.


Walter was named for my grandfather who has been my inspiration to garden and keep bees. My grandfather was a wonderful, but stubborn man. He didn't like to fail and his granddaughter is much like him. I consider it a good, strong quality. I'm still very much a beginner beekeeper and I have so much to learn. I'll continue to ask questions, attend bee schools, read, read and read. I will not give up my organic practices because I don't think these bees were sick. I will rethink how I go into winter next year. There will be another colony of bees in Walter.


I posted the picture at the top to remind myself why I keep bees. My garden wouldn't be the same without them. Spring will come.


10 comments:

Ngaio said...

Lynn, I am so sorry to read this post ... I know how it feels to loose a hive, not to the cold or starvation, but still, loosing a community of industrious litle insects that the world needs so much these days, is heart-breaking. I know you will get new bees in the spring, but it still doesn`t make this lose any easier to cope with - love and hugs

Kat said...

I am very, very sorry to hear about Walter. I know nothing about beekeeping, but I know you were very dedicated to the hive. What in the world did bees do before there were beekeepers to feed them in the cold?

Kenzie said...

I'm very sorry to hear that, Lynn. Sounds like you may have left them how much honey? Over 40lbs by the sound of it? I had thought that was enough, though perhaps with the extreme temperatures you've been having meant the bees just had to eat more. I don't know. Bad news anyway. Look forward to building Walter up again.

Steve said...

I am very sad to hear of this. This cold snap is doing none of us any good. The bright side is that you now have a hive with drawn comb that new bees can readily fill with brood and nectar come this spring.

Mark's Bee-Haven said...

Hey Lynn! I am so sorry to hear that your girls in Walter didn't make it this time. I know it is devastating to work so hard to help your colonies and then find out that nature had other plans. But as you said, spring will come, and you can take comfort in knowing that a new colony will emerge from the now-silent hive. If I can help, you just let me know!

Lynn said...

Hey guys. Thanks for all the kind words. As much as it hurt to lose this hive, I've learned some valuable lessons that will make me a better beekeeper. My next post will be about good news and going forward. Better things will come out of this loss.

vicree said...

I applaud your attitude! Reminds me of someone we both loved...

Barbara's Spot on the Blog said...

Lynn, I know this would have been a difficult post to write. You worked hard for your bees and really cared about them. I'm sorry about Walter.
I'm glad though that you have Walter's traits and you won't give up so easily. Good for you.
The photo is absolutely amazing.

Cliff W said...

So sorry to hear this although I'm sure your grandfather would be very proud of your enthusiasm and determination. I guess the hardest thing to take is not knowing exactly why they died. Our recent weather has been bitterly cold here although there was a vast improvement and it felt positively spring-like today so hoping my bees make it OK ;)

Dean said...

My condolences. I'm only pretty sure I lost my first hive this winter, as well, although it's still too cold here in VA right up the blueridge from you to pry the lid and check for sure. Regardless, I've got another swarm of honeybees on order for early April, this time cold/mite tolerant Russians and I'm converting my hiving system from Langs to top bar hives. Adapt and overcome! Experience is what we get when we don't get what we want.