Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Sad Morning

I found these girls huddled in the bottom box.
 Today is the day I realize how much of an amateur I am at something I felt I knew a lot about, which goes to show that being booksmart doesn't mean squat next to hands on experience.

When I noticed this morning that there were absolutely no bees coming and going from our hive, which is very unusual this time of year on a sunny morning, I opened it up to find it barren. I was shocked and totally dismayed. Well, more dismayed than shocked, really. I must admit that I have been in denial the last couple of months since I first began to notice strange happenings in the hive, like young bees with deformed wings and dwindling numbers day after day. I didn't want to believe that it could be something that would decimate our hive, so I kept telling myself... "oh, it's just Winter. Their numbers probably dwindle a bit in the colder months, they'll regenerate when the weather warms up."

About 13 of the 20 remaining bees in my hive currently.
Anyway, so after finding the hive barren this morning, I began dismantling it to investigate. As I did this with a screwdriver (because I forgot where I put my hive tool) I realized how lousy this experiment was and just how unprepared we were. We never got our beekeeping suits or a smoker, which would have allowed us to inspect the deeper frames on the bottom box sooner for trouble. Instead, we just had a laissez-faire attitude about it, "ah, we'll let the bees live undisturbed  and au natural and see what happens." Really, we are to blame for being lazy about doing our bee homework.

Bottom frame is barren brood chambers, top is honey comb.
Upon first glance, the only thing I can determine is that further investigation is required to figure out exactly what happened. In the top box of the hive, there are several beautiful capped frames of honey that are untouched. So they didn't starve over Winter at all. The thing that is very mysterious, is that in the brood chambers, there are dead young that appeared to die in varying stages of development, some looked like they died just as they exited their chambers. My first guess would be foul brood, but honestly it doesn't look like that from what I remember of descriptions I've read and previous images I've seen. I'm going to have to do a little more internet research to find some comparison photos.

In the meantime, I guess I'll just leave the 20 or so bees I have left to live out their life in the hive while I prepare to start all over again. Sigh, I guess it's a good thing our tax return is on the way, but this time we aren't skimping on the suits or the smoker.


  1. Don't beat yourself up overly much, dear. Given that a third of bees (nationwide? worldwide? I can't remember) are dying mysteriously and the serious experts don't know why, it's truly not necessarily your fault. But yes, do get the suits and smoker, and beeeeeee careful! Better luck with your next colony.

  2. Thanks Dana, and it is my first hive and I think that it's fairly common for first time wanna-beekeepers to lose a hive or two when first starting out. However, my hive death was not as mysterious as CCD (see my latest post.) I could have possibly saved the hive if I had intervened in time, though I've heard those mites are vicious and can be very difficult to treat.