Hive news

Last Sunday when we opened the hive, we saw the queen! She is laying in a wonderful pattern, and we saw bees hatching out of their cells, so all is well. I've also started smelling the hive - it's a hard smell to describe, but the hive starts to emit a scent that is entirely unique, once there are babies, pollen, and nectar. It's very rich, not entirely pleasant, but not unpleasant, either. It's quite strong. I suppose it is also a mix of wood, wax, and propolis. Whatever the reason, the rich smell on the air, and seeing the queen and babies, makes me feel more secure around this group of bees.

I'm different around this colony, though, than my first. I am keeping my distance, emotionally. I suppose that's natural after losing a colony. You might wonder how one becomes emotionally attached to a bee colony. I can't explain it, but one begins to feel very protective over one's bees. I'm already going back and forth about whether to use miticides, come October (which was recommended to me very highly from the breeder).

My brother-in-law sent me a wonderful article from National Geographic. Here's a couple of sentences that stood out to me. The author, Charles Mann, is speaking with a beekeeper.

"Before varroa, he tells me, beekeeping was mostly a matter of bee-having -'they needed minimal attention, most of the time.' Since the mite arrived (in 1987), 'you really have to keep them.' Beekeeping, he says, should actually be called 'mite management.' Most farmers facing insect issues turn to chemicals... there are a dozen or more effective miticides. The chemicals are widely used, but not a single bee researcher, commercial beekeeper, or bee hobbyist I spoke to was happy about putting toxins into hives. In addition, many varroa are already resistant to commercial miticides."


Maybe it's silly to be thinking about this already - after all, I have all summer to decide about this issue, as the mites usually show up late autumn/early winter. Tom and I are planning to attend (and re-up our membership with) the local beekeepers association meeting on Thursday night. I think I'll take aside some old-timers and ask what they think. My guess is, they'll say 'treat.' Meanwhile, the article stated, scientists are working on breeding a mite-resistant bee. I don't know if that will solve the problem; it seems to me that bees need to evolve a natural resistance to the mites.

Phil Chandler, the author of The Barefoot Beekeeper, seems to agree with me. More from the article: "'We cannot solve our difficulties by using the type of thinking that created them,' Chandler says. He's referring to the 'persistent delusion' that humans can control nature... many around him agree with his diagnosis. Sill, they look vexed when he says that the best thing to do for varroa would be... nothing. Keep bees healthy and well fed, but let evolution work. For ten years or more, beekeepers might lose most of their bees, he concedes. But natural selection would eventually lead to some kind of resistant bee. 'We have to think of these issues in terms of what is best for bees,' he says. 'Not what is best for us.'"

Our Queen