May 2020 was a very exciting month for us. After years of talking about them and wanting to have some of our own we finally were able to have bees. Here we are in April 2021 and I am sad to share with you that all of our bees died over the winter.
I was confident going into the winter that the proper precautions were taken to ensure the bees would make it through the winter. I listened to the advice from my beekeeping instructor Ron, and I read dozens of blog posts and watched YouTube videos.
But it wasn’t enough.
We winterized them with insulated winter hive wraps as well as used burlap and wood shavings to help keep moisture out. Our hives were along a tree line that blocks most of the wind and snow which helps.
The last time I observed any activity was in late December.
Spring weather arrived earlier this year. Knowing the bees would want to stretch their legs, I was excited to go and check on them but it didn’t go as I was hoping.
There were bee carcasses piled out front of the hive and scattered around.
Both hives' entrances were blocked with dead bees.
It wasn’t looking good.
When I took the lid off and looked inside I was shocked with what I saw, and also with what I didn’t see. When harvesting, we retain a full super, or box, of that hive's honey for the bees to eat throughout the winter season: feed honey. It’s what feels right to us. So when I first opened the hive this spring, I was happy to see about half of the feed honey had been eaten.
But there still so much left, and no bees.
They were all in the box below, dead.
They were missing arms, legs, wings and the most surprising was that they all had holes in their head, like something had eaten their brains and insides.
It turns out voles and shrews will eat the bee's insides, starting with their heads! They will eat them dead or alive so I don’t know if the bees would have died of something naturally beforehand and then were eaten or if the rodents got in there and decimated them.
Both hives are gone.
When I was inspecting the other hive there was proof of it too. I’m guessing the little jerk was a little too fat, or the honey was just too sticky but as you can see in the picture it got stuck and died.
I’ve talked with some other beekeepers in the area who had the same bad luck this year. We had 2 hives and lost them both, but others who had 30 hives and lost 25 of them. Another who had 10 and lost 6. Not all of them lost for the same reasons but still terrible. Especially with how important that bees are in the world these days and how hard we make it for them to survive with all the crap people spray on lawns and gardens.
We aren’t giving up. No way.
I’ve sourced more bees for the 2021 season. I had hoped to expand the apiary by at least 4 hives this year but it looks like we’ll be starting from scratch again so I’ll happily take what I can get and be grateful that we can restart.