Beehive Post-Mortem

Today, my father came over and we opened the hive. I've been morose all week about the death of my bees, and I wasn't looking forward to going inside the hive again, but it had to be done. I wanted to know more about how the bees died, if possible, and I wanted to harvest the honey.

There had been absolutely no activity this past week around the entrance, so I expected the worst, and sure enough, we saw right away that there were no bees inside. In fact, as we made our inspection, we found only three live bees. The amount of dead bees littering the bottom of the hive was much less (which is a mystery), but because of that, the cause of their death became apparent right away. All along the bottom inside boards of the hive were tiny red circles. Varroa Mites. I was devastated all over again. These mites are a huge problem in the beekeeping industry, and most large operations spray with poisons to kill them. I won't do that, so it's possible that I will continue to have infestations. 

I picked up one of the three live bees, and sure enough, there was a mite stuck to its side.

Can you see the tiny red dot?

This mite is slowly sucking the life out of this bee. So incredibly sad. I never noticed these mites on the bees. They have a 10 day life cycle, and this infestation was so aggressive, it killed the hive fairly quickly. I'm not entirely sure how to help my bees resist this creature in the future.

We cleaned out the hive, finding the dead queen, right near the door. One of the combs had a queen cup on it, which means that the worker bees had been unhappy with the current queen's laying (and no wonder, as she was slowly dying), and they were getting ready to raise a new queen. They never got the chance.

We cleaned all the bars, harvesting beautifully colored honey, about 10-15 pounds of it.

It's crushed and draining in a special bucket made for this purpose. In a few days, I'll open the spigot and fill some jars. I did save a bit of the honey in comb, for us to eat right now. I feel good about chewing the comb, knowing that the bees did not die of pesticide death. Chewing comb reminds me of being a kid; this was our version of chewing gum.

The hive will remain closed and empty through the winter, and the bars will be cleaned and stored in the garage. In spring, I will get a new colony and try again.

Adam and Tom are having a celebratory dinner with fellow opera folks, as the closing performance was today. I'll cook Kate a hot dog, and drown my bee sorrows by indulging in this delicious fellow. That's better than downing a pint of ice cream, any day.