A while (a long while) back I was asked how the bees are doing — I’ve been pretty silent about them since I got them in April. This was largely motivated by despair. It turned out that the startup costs of keeping hives were too much for me this year, and I didn’t get everything in place in time — they need to have new boxes (honey supers) and new frames added at a certain point, but at that point I was super broke and busy with too much other stuff. Also it was so discouragingly rainy this year; it was hard to find a day that it was warm and dry enough to open up the hives.
So anyway, I didn’t get them any honey supers, and then one day I noticed that one of the hives was totally covered in dead bees, and I don’t know why. The other one was humming along, then suddenly wasn’t: there were basically no bees around it. I figure they swarmed because I didn’t get them enough space. It’s super common for them to swarm. I observed a swarm at someone else’s hive this summer. It was really cool. She was able to get them down from the tree and use it to start a new hive.
So then I had two dead hives, and I felt sad and guilty.
Then either the bees that were left after the swarm rebuilt, or a new colony moved in to the empty house, because there were bees on that one again! Very exciting. But I still didn’t get them a honey super, because I just didn’t have time. So I was left with an already-dead hive, and one that I was figuring wouldn’t last the winter.
Today I went out to the greenhouse to see if my pepper plants were still kicking (they were, and there is tons of fruit still ripening, which is pretty exciting), and as I was examining them I heard the unmistakable buzzing of a whole lot of pissed-off honeybees. I went to see, and found the hive knocked over and frames all over the ground, but quite a lot of bees still living. I have no idea how long they had been there; it can’t have been long, because we’ve had several days in a row where the daytime high temp didn’t get above 40, and I think that would kill them if they were that exposed. Fortunately today is significantly milder, and not raining. I should’ve taken a picture, but I was too busy frantically trying to get the smoker going, find some gloves, and try to get them put back together before dark.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much honey there was. No idea if it’s enough to get them through the winter, though. But given this latest drama, I don’t know if they’ll survive, anyway. There are a lot of ways for a beehive to die! The exposure might’ve killed all the larvae and eggs, even though it didn’t kill the adults. The queen might’ve been crushed or otherwise killed. I don’t know if they’ll be able to get the hive up to temp for tonight. Probably 1/3 of the still-living bees were all over the ground when I left them; I don’t know if they’ll get back home even though they’re very close to it. (They don’t move much when it’s below 55°.) When I put it back together I didn’t get the frames in the right order, which is important because they cluster together at the center of the box and eat what’s there. (In bee class they told me that if there are frames with honey just one frame over, they’ll still starve to death rather than go get it. I suppose it is related to temperature.) I tried to keep the honey ones in the center, but who knows if I did it right?
I’m simultaneously thrilled that they have survived this long, and totally discouraged by all the ways that they still might die because of this latest mishap. I am interested to notice, however, that I am gaining confidence in handling them, and also that I am still totally fascinated by them and a little bit in love with them. Go, little bees, go!