death of bees

sunday was warm, and while i was out taking the kitchen scraps to the compost pile i figured i might as well check on our 2 beehives.  one was a second year hive, which we had managed to pull about 30 pounds of honey from this fall , the other a nuc we made from the other hive.  it’s common for small scale beekeepers to name all there hives, and while at an organic beekeeping workshop I was dared to try and come up with the most asinine question i could.  this ended up being – what are the  ethics of naming the hive?  is it dictated by the queen?  If you do a split which half get the name?  do you have to come up with 2 new names?  if you replace the queen do you have to change the name.  this caused a very hearty discussion, and the crowd was pretty divided about the thing.  of course i had meant it all in jest, but no one seemed to know that, and i guess it had been a pressing question to them as well.  it’s not that i’m against naming hives, i’m just against being all uptight about the protocol for naming hives.  it’s for the beekeeper not the bees, they do not answer to there name.  so in keeping with the tradition of nameing the hive a female name, we named our hive bonita applebaum, if you don’t know the reference you need to listen to more hip hop.  the nuc had never obtained a name, i’m not so sure if it was because we were lazy or just didn’t want to give it a name till we had worked it some and figured out the personality type.  Looking at the nuc, there was no sign of bees and even worse, no sign of bee poop.  bees don’t poop in the hive.  which i think is a pretty good trait for livestock, that they leave there home to poop, so you don’t have to clean it up.  this time of year with all our massive snow, it’s pretty easy to see when bees have been out pooping cause you can see little yellow/brown spots all over the snow, a sign they have been out.  but the nuc showed none of this.  the other way to tell if the bees are alive is to put you ear against the hive, give it a solid knock with knuckles, and you should hear them as their buzz gets louder.  I didn’t hear anything.  nothing on bonita applebaum either.  i knew that ma would be pretty upset, and it was my day off work, so i didn’t want her in a foul mood, so i didn’t mention it.  sometime monday i think she must have checked them since she mentioned that she had a feeling they were dead.  at least i didn’t have to be the one to break it to her.  feeling like a bad bee parent sucks, you start thinking of all the things you could have done that you didn’t, how we should have used those formic acid pads that we hate so much.  at this point though i’ve opened up enough dead beehives to pretty much just admit, that dead bees happen, no matter how hard you try. at work we lost at least 4 out of 20 hives, but i’ve not checked on half of them yet.  the emotional loss is one thing the financial is another, losing hives means having to replace hives, either making nucs and splits off the hives you have, which we have none of at the little house, or buying packages which costs money and i’m not very into.  i’m pretty committed to the idea that buying packages of bees that come all the way from georgia and then get shipped to the mitten are just not going to be well adapted to our area, and the best course of action is to try to build up a stock of bees that have been born and breed in the north.  of course if we get a nuc off of someone else we have to wait at least a year before we can harvest any honey.  with the amount of honey we consume, and the amount of mead we make that’s just not going to fly.


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