I’m sure many of you are curious how our beekeeping has been going and have been wondering about the lack of updates being posted. Well folks, it was a rough winter for us in the bee department. Sadly, we lost each of our three hives. Over the course of last summer our largest hive gave us almost one hundred pounds of honey, with plenty left over. Then toward the end of summer this huge colony took a nose dive. We think they did a late swarm, leaving them with an unmated queen going into fall. Not good. On top of this, we had a varroa mite infestation go through this hive, unlike anything we were really prepared for. We totally will not underestimate the lethalness of these horrible parasites EVER again. We were not terribly surprised when this hive succumbed early in the winter season.
The second hive was the one we purchased from an apiary in the Grand Rapids area last spring. These seemed to do well also and looked to be in pretty good shape going into winter. However, we lost this hive about midway through, due mostly to what we believe was a mouse problem.
The third hive was the swarm that we captured in September (Yes. I said September.) Even though most beekeepers would say that a swarm that late in the season is not worth much, we still wanted to give them a shot. Surprisingly, they also looked good at the start of winter, and we had plenty of food to share with them from the other two hives. The sad thing about the loss of this hive was that it seemed to be okay going into April! So close! It wasn’t a starvation issue. It looked more likely to be the nasty cold snaps that we kept getting. The bees were scattered throughout the hive, as if they had frozen there before being able to get back into a cluster. However, we did also find a mouse in this hive.
I was surprised by how much a bee-less spring saddened me. I knew that I had been bitten by the beekeeping bug, but I hadn’t realized how badly until I was finding myself randomly wandering out to the empty hives as if I was in mourning.
Okay, so enough of the sad news. Now on to some good news! A new three-pound package of bees, complete with a mated queen, arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago, all the way from Tennessee. Yay! I am almost giddy with excitement. Just the smell of bees and honey makes me happy. Talk about aromatherapy! This ten-thousand-plus container of honey bees arrived in beautiful condition and ready to get to work. After installing them in the hive the workers had the queen released from her little cage within a couple of days, and she got to work laying eggs. She’s a beautiful queen. We opted this time to order a marked queen, just so she would be easier to keep track of. I wasn’t totally sold on this idea, because part of the fun for me is playing “find the queen” when we do a hive inspection, but Tim said it was just too nerve-wracking for him. I do have to admit that it has made things a lot easier. He was right. Again.
We’re hoping that this won’t be our only hive this spring/summer. Tim has built a few swarm boxes and baited them with lemongrass oil. We have had some friends and family that were more than happy to allow us to place these on their property in the hopes of catching a swarm or two. We’re keeping our fingers crossed, and we’ll be sure to let you know how successful we are.