Despite the fact that it was just above freezing and spitting sleet, I was desperate to get some food on my hives and see how they had weathered the winter.
Summer bee keeping attire looks like this:
Winter attire is a bit more subdued:
At times the storm clouds thinned, the light changed to golden-yellow and it looked as if the rain had stopped. I chose one of those moments to race out and loosen the bear-straps. No sound and a disheartening pile of bees on the top of the frames. The pollen patty I had put on late last fall was almost gone but the silence was deafening. I pulled a few frames just to see if I could see or hear life. Nothing.
A mix of rain and snow started to splatter down again and the light shifted. I pulled out a few frames and sadly saw piles of bodies.
Not wanting to inflict any more pain incase a small colony remained, I peeled a patty and left it with a wish for life.
Trudging on the crusty snow, I crossed my fingers the second hive was stronger and had somehow survived. There were no bodies littered about or smears of golden bee poop. Not a good sign. To my horror, this hive had plenty of patties left, and thousands of dead bodies.
It was a total Dead Out. No one survived to clean the hive.
As sad as this is, I struggle to remind myself it is me meddling with nature and two years of growing the hives was worth the education which drives me to start over. They did make a difference, my neighbor’s gardens were lush and my flowers were glorious. I’ve become comfortable working with them in the lazy heat of summer and am still enjoying the fruit of their labor. My remaining jars of honey from this first chapter are more precious now.
Later, I sat by the window review the photos. Outside the window the hives remind me of tombstones in the gray light. The storm shifted again and the yellow glow returned. Bathed in weak sun, the tombstones melted into hives again and the promise of new life in the Spring.