I am no longer guilty of beeslaughter.
I thought that I had starved out my colony; that is, I had put their food too far from where they were clustered and they didn’t eat enough over the winter. (Over winter they form a ball of bees in the center of the hive and keep warm by vibrating their wing muscles without moving their wings. In true socialist fashion they rotate from the inside to the outside of the ball so that everyone gets a turn. They are very reluctant to leave this ball, which is centered around the queen. So reluctant that if food is too far away they won’t eat it.)
When I did the first inspection of the year I found no signs of life: nothing but mold and decay and gooey little bee carcasses. I’ve been in a funk ever since because I didn’t just kill one animal — I killed thousands. Probably on the order of fifty thousand. Insect genocide. Oh, yay.
|This is what caught my eye when I was mowing the lawn.|
But today I spotted bees hovering around the entrance to my hive!
I did a complete hive inspection and confirmed that, yes, there are a few bees still living in my hive. Maybe on the order of one or two thousand, which is not many.
|A relatively healthy frame of honey. It’s not all capped and some of it it’s moldy, but most of it is good bee food.|
|A not-good frame of honey: mostly moldy and mildewy. The honey itself is dark and watery and smells unpleasantly vinegary.|
I also found honey, though most of it was fermented and nasty.
|This extra large cell on the edge of the comb is a supersedure cell: where the girls were cooking up a new queen. I found four supersedure cells but no queen!|
Now the problem is that I have a teeny weeny colony without a queen! I searched every frame and every cell and I am quite confident I didn’t miss her. Beez Neez, the local apiary supply company, is closed on Mondays, but you can bet I’ll be calling them tomorrow. June and July are prime time for requeening — which I will need to do because the workers can’t reproduce without one — so there may be some left. Failing that I can freak out the mailman by ordering one online. I have to be quick because I have no idea when the old queen died and therefore, no idea how old these bees are. Spring bees usually only live for about 2 months. And I found no brood (babies) in the comb, so there are no more kids a’comin unless I gets them a momma.