Every beekeeper who has kept bees for any decent amount of time has dealt with the loss of bees. Sometimes it’s from disease or parasites, and sometimes it’s from seasonal swarming or too much condensation during the winter. And sometimes there seems to be no reason at all.
I had walked out to my hives to see if any bees were buzzing around, and I saw none, so I put my ear up against a hive to listen. I heard nothing. I didn’t have my bee suit on, but I figured I would peek under the lid anyway. There were no bees. The entire hive was empty — no dead bees, no signs of disease (that I know of). They were just gone.
I went to the next hive and discovered the same thing. No bees. I went to the third hive and lifted the lid, and there were some live bees in sight, which was a relief. I also found bees in our hive split box, which I was glad about, but their numbers are still really low. As sad as I was to see bees gone, and as much as I did not feel like shooting a video about it, I got my camera anyway. And then things got worse.
I opened the hive that had some bees in it only to find out that it was only a small handful of bees that were after the leftover honey stores in that hive. There was no colony in there — it had gone like the other two. So there I was left with 3 out of 4 hives gone, and the only one I had left was a very small one that likely won’t make it through the winter without some kind of miracle.
I have been chatting with some other beekeepers about the reasons a colony would decide to leave. Many of those reasons have to do with the personal preference and decision making my the bees themselves, which is something I have zero control over. This just happened to be the year they all thought it best to find a new home or die trying.
So what will we do next year?? Honestly, I don’t know yet. The expense of the bees is a big deal and not necessarily something we can afford to do every year if we keep losing them. But something we can do is build some swarm boxes this winter and hang them in trees in the spring. That way when it’s time for bees to naturally swarm, they may be lured into the box which will be all set up for them. If that’s the case, I will be able to bring them to the bee yard and keep them…if they’ll agree to stay. 🙂
I will keep you posted on what we decide to do when spring rolls around. In the meantime, we have lots to think about and consider. If you have any ideas, suggestions, advice, or your own bee loss experience to share, please leave a comment below or send me an email.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!