I hope I’m wrong. I don’t think I am, but one can always hope. Really.
Yesterday I did a long hive inspection. It was warm and there was no wind, the bees were flying, and it was time to find out what’s happening inside. I did short inspections before, but this time I pulled out frames, broke the boxes apart (that took some wrenching: the bees had glued them together), and went all the way down to the bottom board.
The idea was to clear the screened bottom board of dead bees so I can do a mite fall test and then to treat appropriately. This is what I found:
A carpet of dead bees, thousands of them, at certain points piled half an inch thick.
The bottom box was mostly empty of honey, pollen or brood, so I decided to take it away. There was one frame with some pollen and honey, and I exchanged that one for an empty frame in the top box.
The top box had very few bees in it, I’d guess less than 10,000. There was one frame with some eggs, pupae and capped brood, but in some cells I spotted two eggs. That is usually a sign of a laying worker – a bee who has not mated and who therefore lays only unfertilized eggs, which will turn into drones, which are pretty useless to a colony. I could not spot my blue-dotted queen, or any queen, for that matter.
And so my bees may be dead, only they don’t know it yet.
What to do? I could hope that it’s a juvenile queen, who hasn’t got the hang of it yet. Or I could ordering a new package of bees, which will prove difficult, as most suppliers were sold out months ago. I could order just a new queen, but this little colony of mine may be too small and weakened by mites to be able to support her efforts.
I think I’ll wait and see.
It’s ironic that this is happening, because in the meantime Transition Wayland (I know, I owe you a long update about that) has started a BEEwareness project. This project will
- educate about the necessity and predicament of the bees and other pollinators by movie showing and expert speakers
- offer a workshop on building a Top Bar Hive and the basics of beekeeping
- offer hive openings and tours of apiaries in Wayland
- put together a Wayland beekeeping support group
- which group will also be able to purchase supplies together
Ambitious, no? We’ll start small, and we’ll start with my hive, which…
Well, hopefully it’s a juvenile queen.