In true procrastinator form, after ignoring the fact that one of my bee hives had died out much earlier this winter, I finally cleaned up the hive and brought it inside.
In extra true procrastinator form I did it today because it was sunny and cold and beautiful outside and I was doing all I could to avoid my inside chores.
I’m sure you will be pleased to know that unlike the mess of a mouse nest I expected to find in a hive that had been left out for part of the winter, (because of course this isn’t the first time I’ve made such a poor decision) it was empty.
All that was inside was a small cluster of dead bees still clinging around hundreds of bee butts sticking out of empty cells. A sad sight.
The cluster was much smaller than I expected which made me wonder if the hive was never as big and strong as I had thought it was. Perhaps that was why it was the target of the robbing behavior last fall and they never would have made it through the winter anyway. Or perhaps the robbing threw them off, destroying so much of their home, hive and brood that it caused them to be low in number going into winter.
Whatever it is, it drives home the fact that the longer I keep bees the more I know how little I really know.
After shaking off what bees we could and cleaning up the hive for transport into the garage for the rest of the winter, Jane and I spent some time poking about in the pile of dead bees. I’m going to fob this behavior off as “investigative research” but I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty fascinating to look through the pile of bees. Frozen and dead they look very much the same as when they were alive and the hairs on their legs will still “grab” onto jacks and gloves and each other. Sifting through the pile I only saw one (dead) mite still clinging to it’s host which I shall take to be a good sign. And after a bit of searching we pulled the queen out of the pile and were able to take her back to the house for a morbid little photo shoot.
While we looked through the dead hive evidence of cleansing flights from the live hive was all around us and they appear to be doing fine. I’m crossing my fingers and making a note to check them during the next warm spell, it can be hard to be a hive of bees in the winter that might be counting on a little extra care from an expert procrastinator.