Recounting The Horrific Last Days of My Bees

So the other weekend I spent a few hours scraping comb out of my hives, washing them and sitting them out in the sun.   It’s a job I’ve put off for a few weeks because well, it’s not a very rewarding one.   Maybe it’s the “walk of shame” for a beekeeper.

As I mentioned earlier, there’s estimates that 70% of the state of Iowa’s commercial beehives (and who knows about the wild bees) would die off this spring due to the harsh winter and all the complications that brings.   I figured that 70% was about right when one hive died and the other one looked like it was hit hard, but still alive.   After a week or two, that other hive died.   I was hoping it would pull through so I could build back up both hives over time.

Anyways, it looks like the final days for both hives were pretty grim.   They had a disease called nosema which is basically like dysentery for bees and would be pretty common in a year like this.   A healthy hive can get over it, but it can take down a weak hive.    Kind of like how diarrhea is a big deal in parts of the third world but not so much here.

Last year wasn’t exactly a banner year for collecting nectar, so I don’t think the hives grew as much as they should’ve.   I did some supplemental feeding, but I probably should’ve done more during the year.   It looks like starvation was also a problem.   Both hives had honey stores left over at the end of the year, but I read that the weather was causing the bees to break their cluster during the winter and get separated from the food supplies.   I imagine this took a toll on both hives.  I found dead bees inside empty combs, which is usually a sign of them trying to get the last bit from the comb.

I’m sure mites added to the misery too.  Kind of like with nosema, it’s not as big of a deal when everything else is going fine but in the weakened state, they can really wreak havoc in a hive.

Right now I’m saying I want to try again next year, but we’ll see how things pan out.   They were fun to have around and having bees is a hell of a conversation piece.

On the subject of bees dying, I’m still not seeing anywhere near as many bees as I used to and right now my garden looks like a pollinator’s paradise.   I should take some pictures, I love when it looks like it does now.   I’m curious to see how things are going to turn out (squashes, tomatoes, etc.) with so few pollinators out right now.

On another note of declining insect populations, I have a bunch of family in town from Nevada right now.    The last time a cousin (or whatever she is) was in Iowa was probably in the late 80’s and one of the memories we both have from her visit was catching lightening bugs….and there were a shit load of them lighting up the sky back then.  They don’t have them in Nevada, so it was quite the novelty.   She brought her 6 year old daughter with her this time and told her about the lightening bugs.   They actually had to look hard for them where they used to be impossible to miss whenever you’d step outside around dusk.  I’m not seeing anywhere near as many of them as I used to.   I’m not sure exactly what niche they fill in nature, but I imagine some of the same factors that are taking a toll on the bees are working on them too.   Kind of a scary situation when you look at what’s going on in the insect kingdom.

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