I love raising honey bees. In the warmer months, I can sit for hours just watching their rhythmic flight back and forth, tiny legs laden with bright yellow pollen. The amount of pollen they can carry is the most amazing part of it. Compared to the size of their legs, it would be the equivalent of strapping a huge tractor tire around my own leg. It’s a wonder they can walk, never mind fly. But I have not had a hive survive beyond their first winter, despite now three attempts.
We were doing so well. We have had a record warmth winter this year in Northeast Connecticut. Temperatures have been mild, dipping only into the 40’s and snowfall has been minor–until a couple of weeks ago when temps decided to dip below zero with wind chills making it -25 outside. Just before this cold front moved in (one of the few benefits of the boob tube moving in is that I do get breaking weather advisories…), I went out to the one surviving hive from last year’s re-queening to inspect and also to feed a new jar of sugar water. It was a warm day when I opened the hive and several scouts immediately swarmed around me, checking me out. Though there were quite a few dead bees on the top board, there were far more buzzing happily in the hive. Everyone appeared healthy; there even appeared to be a good supply of honey still in the hive. I placed the jar on top. A few bees flew up and immediately started eating. I closed everything up again.
And then the cold weather hit.
Earlier this week I noticed that there was suddenly zero activity around the hive, despite the return of balmier temperatures. Concerned, I opened the hive and found all of them dead. I can only surmise that it was the sudden, drastic change of temps as the jar of sugar water was only half-empty. It now sits on the top shelf of my refrigerator, a painful reminder of this loss.
Of course, I am my own worst enemy. I have been wracking my brain–i.e. beating up on myself, wondering what I might have done differently, what did I do wrong? However, Colony Collapse has been a scourge for the beekeeping community for years. The Netherlands and Scandinavia have documented proof that it is the chemical fertilizers and pesticides that are causing this disorder (Cunningham; Butters) but, when the US decided to run their own tests, it was pesticide and fertilizer giant, Monsanto, who helped fund it. It isn’t any wonder that they found the Netherlands’ and Scandinavia’s findings false. If I do nothing else as a writer, I hope to bring awareness to the problem of chemicals in our environment–and our bodies. Fertilizers, pesticides and even antibiotics are destroying our health, our food, our soil, our water supply, our animals, all of nature–in short, our planet.
However, I am not giving up. Tuesday I contacted the CT Beekeepers’ Association to find out if I could still order a new queen and 3 lb. box of workers for this season. I can. So new bees will be arriving here at the Herbal Hare Homestead this spring. Pointing the finger back at myself, next winter I will invest in a few straw bales to place around the hive to insulate it a bit, leaving only a small opening for ventilation and flight. I will also begin feeding sugar water a little earlier, too–just in case. But I will also continue to campaign against Colony Collapse Disorder and the big bucks agribusiness that feed it.
God bless you & keep you!
Butters, Mary Jane. Mary Jane’s Farm magazine. Moscow, Idaho. Print & Web. www.maryjanesfarm.org
Cunningham, William P & Mary Ann. Environmental Science: A Global Concern, Thirteenth Edition. 2015. McGraw-Hill: New York.