Another Colony Lost

It was a relatively warm day yesterday, and no bees of any kind were to be seen in my garden. Feeling brave, I decided to peek into the hive without a suit on. I found that despited the fondant I had given them, my bees had died.

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This was all that was left of them. A little over a dozen bees and the queen.

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I’m not sure why they decided to cluster here, given that just a few cells to the right there were eggs present.

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Lots of eggs. I almost think the queen was so desperate to lay eggs she was putting more in the cells than she should’ve. They couldn’t have supported more than this space (obviously) because of their numbers, so there was no where else to put them. Some of the cells have 5+ eggs in them. The bees had pulled in pollen from outside and from around the hive to make that nice little pocket of pollen for those eggs.

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There was lots of pollen here. And probably a frame and a half worth of honey in the colony, plus the fondant.

I took the queen out to bring her inside and show everyone in my house, most of whom have never seen a queen before, and as I was walking toward the house she seemed to perk up and start moving. It was really bizarre. The warmth from my hands was enough to revive her a bit, so I put her back on the hive to let her walk around. She couldn’t move one of her legs properly and her tongue refused to retract. She never really got up to full speed, but with the sun warming her up she made her way through the telescoping cover and back down into the cluster of other lifeless bees. It was kind of sad. I feel like I should’ve given them a burial or something.

Its a little late in the season to order bees now, as most places are sold out. The first day of Spring is today after all. I would like to get some, but they’re extremely expensive. Last year they were $90 for 3 pounds of bees, and this year they’ve gone up to $110. Things are definitely getting worse if there’s been a $20 price hike over the course of one year. And Nuc’s are even more expensive, at $150 a piece.  They guy I bought my first colony of bees from said that he’s already lost 50% of his colonies, and expects to be lucky if he makes it through with 1/3 of what he started the winter with.

I don’t know what else to be doing. I bring more flowers into my garden every year, and I spoke with hundreds of people last year at my internship about bees. I just don’t understand why people don’t see that there’s an issue worth solving here. Especially one that’s easily remedied. I just want to move to the middle of no where where I can keep several dozen hives and not be penalized for it, and where pesticides are less of an issue. 

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6 responses to “Another Colony Lost”

  1. Emily Heath says :

    That’s really tragic about the damaged queen coming back to life. Multiple eggs in a cell are usually a sign of laying workers, so I expect she’d stopped laying properly and the colony was doomed some time ago. So many beekeepers I follow in the US have lost their bees during the harsh winter.

    • willowbatel says :

      Oh that could be. There was capped brood that was abandoned elsewhere in the colony and was worker brood, so the queen may have failed recently. Failing queens seems to be a common theme with me, but I also always split my colonies and don’t purchase new queens when I do. I think this year (if I get bees) I won’t split them and see if that makes a difference.

  2. bdbatta says :

    I’m sorry to hear about your loss. It’s been a tough winter for everyone. Hopefully you can come across a swarm to start over.

    • willowbatel says :

      Bees are so expensive! I’m looking into getting a package, but the person I’ve been trying to reach hasn’t been answering their phone when I call. They’re the closest supplier to me, so if I don’t buy from them I’ll have to go an hour and a half out of my way.

  3. The Honeypotters says :

    Thank you so much for this post. I’m really sorry for the loss of your hive this year. This was my first year with survivor bees, and as I’m still very much a beginner beekeper, I feel I must largely attribute my strong bees to being local bees as that was one of the big differences I took action on this year. I wonder, if you do choose to get a new package of bees, if there is someone local to you that has genetically strong “local” queens for sale that you could implement?

    • willowbatel says :

      I would love to buy local queens but the only “local” queen suppliers are in eastern Washington, a 4 hour drive away. Its just too cold and wet here to successfully breed queens I think. I would love to buy locally for many reasons, but it just doesn’t seem like an option here, which is really really unfortunate.

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