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I have been in mourning for a week. If I were of the Jewish faith perhaps I could say I am sitting Shiva. According to Sitting Shiva.com:

During the period of Shiva, mourners sometimes sit on low stools or boxes while they receive condolence calls. This is where the phrase “sitting shiva” comes from, and it is a practice that symbolizes the mourner being “brought low” following the loss of a loved one. For seven days, the family members of the deceased gather in one location – typically their own home or the home of the deceased – and mourns the loss in a variety of ways.

I mean no disrespect to Judaism, but silently sitting each day beside my hives, even for just a moment or two. Has allowed me to come to grips with the loss.

Sunday afternoon I spent several happy hours in the company of beekeepers. My mentor, Jodi, gave a class on Advanced techniques.  Each participant introduced themselves and stated their goals for the up coming year. Mine was to split one of the hives and move two with me when I sell the house, leaving one for Wilson. The group was lively and we delved into whatever questions came to mind. We shared wins and losses, helpful hints and fears.

I came home super-charged for bee keeping armed with ideas and plans. The temps were mild so I stopped at the hives before going into the house. I just wanted a peek before suiting up and doing a mini-inspection. There were no bees flying, no sound when I rapped on the sides. Still hopeful, I parked in the garage and gathered a hive tool and went back out.

I wrestled with the tie-down straps and cracked open the top of my small hive. Dead. No comforting buzz, no movement. Bodies piled high. It was devastating. Moving quickly, I strapped it back up and opened the large hive. Same dead silence. Shaken and disbelieving I walked back to the house. It seemed if I just gave it a minute, time would reverse and they would be fine. Perhaps it wasn’t every bee? Maybe there were a few still deep in the hive?

My third trip out to look confirmed the complete loss.

Three weeks ago I had popped the tops of the hives on a mild day and they were chock full of busy ladies. Then we had a weekend where the temps dipped to 26° below 0 and the wind chill added another 20 degrees.

Could I start again? Of course. Is this a sign? As I work my mind around my next big move and therapeutic misadventure, I look for signs. Perhaps this is not the optimal spot for bees. I know I am a good caretaker of them, but maybe it is not the right place. Maybe a new home for the bees and me is in order.

For now, they stand as silent, tombstones. I grieve every time I glimpse them from the window or drive by. Poor bees…

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26 comments on “Bees

  1. Touring NH says:

    So sorry to hear about your bees. I know how much joy the liquid gold brought to you. Perhaps the 50 degree temperature swing was just too much for them.

    1. That is all I can figure, Laura. They made it through the winter for the most part but that bitter cold wind must have done them in. I will start again, probably not this year, but I will have bees again.

  2. jaknisell says:

    I am so sorry to hear about your bees. I know in time you will find your answers to your many questions and uncertainties. In the end it will be all good!

    1. Thank you Annie. Changes are always difficult but rewarding. At least I will always have you, my friend!

    1. Thank you Susan. It seems so unfair to have gotten them through the winter and have this happen…

  3. Martha, I’m so sorry to hear about your bees. You know that I take a personal interest in your bees now. Having seen them alive and well so recently must make it especially hard. But look at it this way, you’re obviously a good caretaker, and your area has lots of native bees, so evolution is on your side. And as Bill Murray said: “You’ve got that going for you.” Hang in there and best of luck with the new hive. ~James

  4. I’m sorry to hear about the bees. We need all of them we can get.
    I wonder if wild bees suffered the same fate. I hope not.

    1. Thank you. I don’t know about the wild bees but will ask my bee mentor. Hopefully it was just a fluke due to weather.

  5. Joanne Corey says:

    I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your bees. Wishing you peace as you discern your next steps.

    1. Thank you Joanne. Next steps are important but must be evaluated. Onward through the fog!!

  6. Susan says:

    Oh, Martha – I’m so sorry to hear that. Poor bees. And poor you.

    1. I will start again at some point, Susan. Thank you!

  7. Jenny Clarke says:

    As a fellow bee keeper I know that painful feeling when you realise the bees haven’t made it through the winter.I lost my hive last winter and restocked with the local bees. All is well at the moment but in the UK March can be a tricky month with expanding brood but not always Spring like weather.
    You gave me your card back last summer when my husband and I visited the shop and we discovered that we were both bee enthusiasts.

    1. Thank You, Jenny! So good to hear from you and that your bees are doing well. This is my year of transition. Hoping to move to a place less harsh before I restart my bees. I remember meeting you at the store and hope you will be back though I am no longer there.

  8. Understand completely. I had the same experience last spring. We replaced with one of our own swarms, and they seem to be doing well, knock on wood (in this case a beehive).

    1. Just so very sad when they made it through the winter only to be frozen out. Thanks.

      1. That’s usually the way it happens–just when you think you can stop worrying…

  9. Nolsie says:

    That is devastating news, Martha. Everything seemed to be going well with your bees. Very sad. But maybe you are right and it is indeed a sign, to move somewhere more suitable for your next hive. A new chapter, moving to a new place, lots more therapeutic adventures both for you, and for we, your readers!

    1. Thank you Mark. You know I will be writing through the whole process.

      1. Nolsie says:

        I admire your courage to endure and keep going with your bees, and I look forward to reading how it all comes together for the new venture!

  10. Martha, I’m coming your way thanks to Terri and James, as we’d recently been corresponding about their and my bee-related posts. I’m not a beekeeper, but after visiting an apiary on the Mediterranean island of Malta earlier this year, I’m fascinated by the process. I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your bees; unfortunately, our beekeeping host here in Malta had discovered that one of his hives had died, in this case, due to starvation. Malta is in the midst of one of its worst droughts on record, and an adequate amount of spring flora didn’t bloom this year.

    I hope you and our Maltese friends (and their bees and your future bees) will have more favorable conditions in the near future.

    1. Welcome Tricia! I will trek over and see what you are up to. James and Terri are the best for connecting folks. As to bee keeping, I highly recommend it for many reasons; not the least of which are environmental, emotional and spiritual. We are also experiencing a drought this year so I am comforting myself that my bees would have struggled without a lot of help from me. As soon as I relocate and become settled, I plan on setting up my apiary and getting back to it. Thank you so much for reaching out!!

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