“I looked upon the rotting sea, and turned my eyes away
I looked upon the rotting deck, and there the dead men lay”
– Rime of the Ancient Mariner, S. T. Colerige.
My hive is dead.
Varroa destructor, as well as my own neglect, has caused the death of my hive. Weeks ago, when I found the mite had become established, I began a severe treatment, using two different, complementary methods (formic acid, followed by Bayverol), but it was too late. Another two weeks of mild weather may have been enough, but we had floods so deep the hive only just stayed dry (can’t say the same for my chainsaw, lawnmower, welder, sleepout…), followed by -6˚C frosts (20˚F for any Americans), for a couple of weeks.
The weather has been seriously gnarly, with bridges washed away, and metresof snow nearby. I saw a mess of bees around the feeder on the first fine day, but unfortunately, none of them were mine. They were robbers, from a hive nearby.
My bees froze to death, within an inch of masses of honey, the hive too small to keep themselves warm. Grubs, brood, all dead too, showing the queen was laying up until the very end.
The base board was covered in thousands of mites – these had probably died due to the treatments – confirming the reason for the weakened state
As Yoda felt the pain of the destruction of Alderaan, so did I feel the loss of my thousands of workers. I was surprised how much emotional energy I invested in my little stinging minions. The feeling of sadness was very intense, especially when I brushed the body of the poor dead queen into the garden.
Lessons learned –
- Varroa is dangerous, get onto it straight after harvest.
- Keep an eye on the hive.
- Any wingless bees are a sign of trouble.
If a mite is spotted, the infestation needs treatment a week ago, if not sooner.
This coming spring I will try to rebuild, buying a queen, and borrowing a couple of frames of brood and bees from Dad – his hive is going strong. He wants to give me his whole hive, as at 86 the boxes are beginning to get a bit heavy.
a) having two hives is better, as it gives more options,
b) at 86, he is still so fit and healthy, I want to be like him.
I need to be alone right now.