The Day the Village Died

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A week ago we became suspicious.  They had been flying here and there and buzzing in the trees fine a few weeks ago.  I meant to get into the hive on the next nice day.  The last really nice day may have been Easter and I didn’t do it.  What made us wonder about the health of the hive was the fact that there were so many dead bodies on the front porch of the hive that a few were having trouble getting in and out.  The icy wind kept howling and the temperature wasn’t quite right at all this past week so I just moved the door minimizer and used a stick to move some of the bodies out of the way.  I suppose we were too late at that moment.

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The air was cool yesterday morning as I gathered dandelion flowers.  Doug came out and resolved that he would look in the hive.  It seemed too cold but we had a dark feeling about it all anyway.  He suited up and opened the roof of the hive and began to pull off each slat.  Each empty slat.

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Each slat had an empty honey comb on it.  The closer he got the front we noticed the heavy combs were black.  Not sure what that means.  The combs were empty all the way to the front of the hive even though we had left them nearly twice as much as is recommended to get through winter (17+ frames after we decided to not get any honey).  Apparently not enough.

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It was a sobering sight to see six inches of dead bees across the bottom of the hive, piling out onto the front step of their village.  The nanny bees died where they stood, stuck to the comb surrounding the last small section of brood.  Died in place as if a great disaster in this medieval kingdom brought their lives to a stop in a just second’s time.

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The hive was so prolific for most of the winter that they must have eaten more than a smaller village would.  I should have checked earlier to see if I should supplement sugar water.  Perhaps I could have saved them if I had checked on Easter.

There is no place for procrastination on a homestead.  I should know this by now.  Whether it is checking a bee hive, getting the produce harvested and preserved, getting a free load of wood to the house before someone else takes it.  Homesteading is all about timing.  One can so easily miss the window of opportunity.  In the busy months of homesteading one ought to be prepared to be up until one in the morning canning, or drop everything to drive to Denver in a broken down truck to get precious wood, or be up at dawn watering the gardens.  This life runs our schedule for the next three seasons and this loss only reminds me to pay attention and focus on each task as it calls.

Next time I will not use the top bar hive.  I will buy a traditional Langstroth hive.  There are so many more colorful, comprehensive books on the subject, and many more bee keepers to ask.  Most folks didn’t know how to answer my questions because the top bar method is just not that popular.

Well, if life is all about learning, and a homestead is its own classroom then I have learned valuable lessons this week.  But at the expense of a beautiful village.

14 Comments Add yours

    1. Farmgirl says:

      You can say that again!

  1. Sorry to hear they didn’t make it. Very good lesson shared about homesteading. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Farmgirl says:

      I wonder if it’s too late to try again this spring. We may have to wait until next year. Such a bummer!

  2. jennyhud says:

    We lost all our bees this year again too. I know that feeling of opening the hive and not hear their buzz. We left ALL of the honey for them this winter and still lost them all. Such is nature!

    1. Farmgirl says:

      It was a hard winter everywhere, I think.

    1. Farmgirl says:

      It really was! Most of the people I know who have bees lost them this winter. It was a rough one!

  3. Anna Weller says:

    Bees are so precious to us all! I know your sadness! As I was planting my petunias I was so excited to see my first bee! They will come back! I know it!

    1. Farmgirl says:

      It is always nice to help them along by providing a hive though. I hope I can do it again!

  4. I’m sorry to hear about the loss. It’s frustrating to have things like this fall through. This was a great reminder about procrasternation, a beast I fight daily too. We’re hoping to get honey bees when we move. Well, my dad is.

    1. Farmgirl says:

      I hope to do it again and not be so nervous this time. We really do need bees.

  5. You are right, there isn’t much room for procrastination on a farm. But… don’t give up either. Nothing ever comes from giving up… only lessons unlearned.

    1. Farmgirl says:

      We are better teachers each time we keep trying!

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