Back in June I wrote about the collapse of my new hive of bees. This traumatic event caused me to obsess about the welfare of the remaining bees in the hive.
From the day we had the big die off at the end of May to the present time I have fed the bees with the goal of keeping the survivors alive and hoping that the queen and her little mates could build up the population enough to be able to survive winter. And, in a twist right out of Opposite Day I fed them honey. They loved it. And why not? It was a lot easier than making it. I took an ice cube tray and lined it with sponges which I had filleted and cut to fit. The bees lined up at this trough of sweetness like cows at a feed lot.
The queen was active. She laid eggs. The worker bees fussed and fed and cleaned the comb. The population slowly increased. In mid-afternoon of summer one could watch the newbies do their practice flights in front of the hive. I could see that the foragers were bringing pollen back into the hive and nectar too, I supposed. These were the raw materials for making their own food. But, could they ever suck up that honey.
I started to feel like they waited for me to show up with my plastic jar of Aunt Sue’s Raw Honey and after reading an article about bogus honey in Natural News worried that Aunt Sue might be one of those Chinese fakes. It seemed like I was being a bit too attentive to these girls. Sort of an enabler who took the edge off their natural instinct to survive. After all, this was supposed to be natural beekeeping and what I was doing was beyond natural. I found some consolation reading about other beekeepers as in The Beekeeper’s Lament who often feel that they are more like undertakers with the myriad of problems that bees have experienced.
Actually, I was starting to feel more like a pet owner whose delicate insects required lots of attention. I did a bunch of other stuff like using some homeopathic/biodynamic sprays to maintain and improve the health of the hive. You’ll have to read about that on your own.
There are several races of bees: Italians, Caucasians, Russians, Carniolans. My bees were supposed to be Italians but I began to think they might be a mutated race of bees—Kardashians. They were needy, had a sense of entitlement, craved my attention, were a bit fickle, loved sweets, relished having their photos taken and had cute, though rather large butts.
In late August, yellow jackets attacked the Kardashians who shreeked and screamed and demanded that I do something. I discovered that my thick goatskin beekeeper gloves were perfect for squishing yellow jackets. The Kardashians purred (or rather buzzed) with pleasure. They even deigned to kill a couple themselves and haul their sorry-assed striped carcasses out of the hive. They showed off for me by flying off with yellow jacket bodies.
It was nice to see some activity from the Kardashians. They even began to make some honey of their own just to prove, I suppose, that they had it in them. But then the complaints about the weather. It was getting cold; it was windy. There were drafts. They wanted to go to Hawaii or someplace for the winter. I realized that winter was problematic. The bees would form a ball in the hive and like penguins constantly change places with each other to maintain a constant temperature. I worried that there weren’t enough Kardashians to maintain this heat. So, I got the truck and hauled in ten bales of straw and stacked them up between the hive and any potential Nor’Easter to create a windbreak. The girls were pleased but not satisfied. They still complained of drafts. I bought a sheet of hard foam insulation and cut it to fit under the roof and across the front of the hive. I built an eight cup feeder so there could be a constant source of sugar water. I bought ten pounds of pollen patties and keep one in the hive for them to snack on. I do and do and do for them.
I hope we are prepared to make it through winter. They have some honey they made and some pollen saved up but not nearly enough. I’ll have to keep feeding them and hope they will be warm enough. But, I’ve about had it with the Kardashians. They just learned that bees rarely poop during winter. They mostly hold it then take a big cleansing flight in the spring. This is grossing the girls out. They will just have to deal with it.