And now the sad news I promised you yesterday...
As you may know, I am the proud keeper of a hive of bees in my backyard (if you don’t know, go ahead and read a few of my bee posts I’ve linked to below). Well, Sunday was a sad day. Actually, it was a really nice day with sun, no wind and warmish temps. A perfect day for seeing what my bees were up to. Or so I thought.
They Were Just There!
Sunday’s wasn’t my first hive inspection this spring. About a week before we had wonderfully warm weather and sunny skies. I donned my oh-so attractive bee jacket and hat and did the first inspection since fall. I don’t know what I expected to see, but I wasn’t expecting to see so much nasty.
Somehow water had gotten into the hive. I had minor moisture issues last winter, but nothing like this. This was foul. There was standing water at the bottom of the hive that had steeped into a gory soup of dead bees and some wriggly things that I don’t even want to think about.
But yet, I still had bees. Plenty of bees, happy bees, pollen collecting bees. Despite the mess, they seemed to be doing okay. Still, the hive needed cleaning up and those wriggly things needed to go away.
The Clean Up
I blocked off the front of the hive where all the girls were hanging out and concentrated on the back two thirds of the hive. I pulled out the old comb that had turned a funky shade of whitish-green with mold and cut it off the bars (there’s going to be a lot of wax melting in my future). I then proceeded to scoop out as much of the water as possible along with the chunky bits of nightmarish gore. If ever I’ve proved I don’t have a weak stomach, this was the day.
To help improve the ventilation in the hive and hopefully dry it out a bit, I opened up some holes on the back of the hive and covered them with mesh. And I think this was my mistake.
The mesh over the open holes really seemed to confuse my bees. I’ve always considered my bees fairly smart, but the mesh proved to be their SAT and they failed miserably. They were trying to push dead bees from inside of the hive out through the mesh, they were trying to enter through the mesh (the entrance holes are only a few inches around the corner, duh) and things just seemed in a bit of mayhem – a Mesh-Ageddon, if you will.
Still, bees a very adaptable and I figured they’d sort it out. Throughout the week I kept seeing bees coming and going through the real entrance holes so all appeared well.
The Silence of the Bees
So, there I was this weekend, checking out what was blooming in the yard and I noticed the hive seemed really really quiet. I opened the viewing panel and saw just a couple bees wandering amongst the comb. Not a good sign. So, back on with the jacket and hood (I hate that thing) and into the hive.
Bar after empty bar proved what the silence had hinted at. Yes, there were a few bees (less than ten) buzzing around, but the hive had been cleared out. Mesh-Ageddon proved to be too challenging. I guess they didn’t like the remodel and moved onto new digs.
Deeper Cleaning Time
The up side of the empty hive was that I was able to get in and give it a thorough cleaning. I removed the majority of the remaining wax (leaving just a little nubbin on the bars to give any new bees a starting point), I cleaned out the rest of the funky soup (there were no more wriggling things of which I was very happy), and I swabbed the decks (so to say) with alcohol to kill anything that might be lurking. I also moved the entrance holes a bit lower and added more mesh to the front of the hive (ventilation has always been an issue with this hive).
So, if the hive before was a fiver upper, it is now move in ready.
Lookie Loos or Potential Buyers?
Since the clean up there have been loads bees checking out the hive. I’m not sure if these are just the lookie loos you get at any open house, or if these are serious buyers, but I’m hoping they’ll tell all their friends about this hot piece of real estate. In the meantime, I’m glad that my local raw honey supplier (who I thought had gone out of business) is still offering up my crack, er, I mean, honey, for a great price. I’ll be visiting her regularly until my hive gets on its feet, or rather wings, again.
Want to Help Bees?
Adding native plants to your garden provides bees and other pollinating critters an ideal chance to stop by for a snack. Native plants also help keep chemicals out of your yard which i another boon for wildlife. Not sure where to start, then check out my gardening guide Going Native: Small Steps to a Healthy Garden.