As I stated in the last blog about bees, my bees had been plentiful throughout the summer, filling three boxes. However, I noticed a problem (varroa mites) and treated them dutifully. I saw the results and the results looked good. I was hopeful but eventually was horrified to find that most of the hive was empty. Rather than 30-40,000 bees I was met with 2-3000 bees!
The decision to leave the small remainder of bees to their fate was hard. However, nature rarely gives us a choice and remembering that gave me some solace, if not peace. The bees died shortly afterwards and it took me a few months before I could muster the heart take the hive apart. I eventually did, and cleaned it up even going so far as cleaning the foundation of most of the remnants of my little hive. I was left with some beautiful comb and even some honey stores. Not much, but then I was ahead of the game because my beehive had given its life to do what it had no choice in doing.
I think this is important to remember about death; that there is no choice. Life and death is not a choice and bees are no different. During the last few days the hive was robbed, the queen and her small entourage died and the hive was left empty. It sat as a reminder that it is often a mistake to expect nature to act differently simply because we have a vested interest in it doing so. Nature offers us no choices and that thought reminded me that my dead colony left me with yet another gift: philosophy.
And so I ordered more bees from my local supplier (the bees are local bees with semi-local queens). It was actually a hard decision because as a beekeeper I must accept at least partial responsibility for the death of the hive that I chose to take responsibility for. Mismanagement was almost certainly a culprit in the loss of my hive, but in more ways than one. Varroa mites were also to blame. However, even the mites that were eventually the cause of death were simply following the hallowed and harsh laws of nature. They were doing what they do best: survive. With this in mind I look forward to my new bees arriving in April.
With the arrival of the new bees I will become explicitly involved in the most natural of cycles: life and death, and I hope that my explicit involvement will somehow sway the likelihood of survival for my bees instead of the other way around. I have read that because of the varroa destructor problem that human involvement is now necessary for the survival of honey bees. I’m not sure that I agree with the argument entirely as it was human involvement that created the problem in the first place. I will certainly try to do my best and the bees will do what the bees will do. Life and death to them is simply the law of nature, but I will continue to try to be the best beekeeper that I am capable of being by continually trying to understand the nature of that law.