It is with much sadness that we have to inform our friends and followers that we have lost our last hive. This was beyond our control, we did everything we could have possibly done. I have been quiet lately, because I was a bit sad about the situation. We put in so much effort and got them to SURVIVE the winter and than a disease is what took them out, so we think.
On top of cold weather, moisture and swarms you have to treat your hive multiple times a year, for mites. The hive can get Varroa Mites if not treated and the mites will eventually kill the bees. The mites are known for weakening the bees, by sucking the bees body fat. If you treat them, you can prevent them but it is not ALWAYS guaranteed, at least in our case.
Why Do You Think You Had Mites?
There was a day in June when we were sitting outside and noticed a bee looked strange. It was extremely light colored and it didn’t have wings. We only noticed the one, so we just chalked it up as not a huge deal, assuming one or two bees could not develop all the way sometimes.
A week or two went by and it seemed like the hive was being extremely quiet. Not a lot was happening outside, compared to a week or two prior. There was so much action in the yard then and then it slowed down, bringing some concerns. So we did a quick check in the evening to see what was going on. We couldn’t find the Queen, again more concerns. Kept looking and we noticed there was some brood (bee grubs) which meant there was a Queen and may still be one, we just missed her, or she was out on her mating flight.
We gave it another week and suited up to do a full inspection and see what was going on. Still not a lot of action outside of the hive. Pulled some frames out and we found, what we thought was a queen cell. We also started noticing more of these deformed bees, missing wings and discolored, smaller than normal. We dug into the frames and we found a Queen. Good news right? This means, the original Queen was failing so a new one was made and hatched to take over. Correct.. but not in this case.
What Else Did You Notice?
While doing our full inspection, we found that the new Queen was laying extremely spotty brood. Typically when they lay, they are in nice honey comb towards the center of the frame. This Queen was laying them very sporadically, the first sign that something isn’t right. From there, we noticed some of the grubs weren’t capped off, they were dead already. Again, another sign something isn’t right. There was very little honey that was produced, but we had treated them for mites earlier in the spring, so we can’t collect what is there.
What Do You Do Now?
At this point in time, we know our hive isn’t doing well. There is maybe 200 bees left, they aren’t taking the sugar water we have tried giving them, hardly eating their food supply. So to the internet we go, to do some research. We talked with Marks dad and with the local honey farm and from what we know and saw, we believe our hive ended up with what they call “Deformed Wing Virus”. Which is a virus that causes wing and abdominal deformities often found in hives that have Varroa Mites.
Like I had said earlier, we had treated them for Mites last fall and early spring, but it must just not have been enough. This is a first for us, we tried everything we could, we treated them as they say to, however it is something some beekeepers struggle with.
At this point into our research, we now know the bees are going to die. There is no saving them, they’re such a small colony they wont make it as they are now.
From our research and what we were told, because they are affected, our only option is to kill them (SAD I KNOW) and burn all of our equipment. Because of the possible virus they have gotten, we do not want to keep our equipment, due to spreading of the virus to other hives. This could spread to our future hives, or to someone local’s hive. The only way to prevent the spread, is to burn the equipment. Thankfully in our case, our equipment is old and we wanted to upgrade anyways, but still very unfortunate.
Where Does This Take You Now?
We now know we can get them to survive the winter, which is HUGE for us. Mark and I did so well, took extra precautions with everything we were supposed to, but a virus is just something out of our hands. We will continue doing what we are doing and continue to educate our fellow followers. Like I tell most people, Mark and I are still learning, what works for us, might not work for the next guy, or it might. It is all trial and error.
Mark and I do appreciate everyone following our journey on this and sharing information with us. It’s even more great seeing more and more people getting involved in bees, purchasing their own colonies and trying this out for themselves. The environment needs bees, if we can continue what we are doing, we can continue to save the bees. Thanks for taking the time to read this far and continue to ask us questions. Our hope is to be back next year, with some new equipment and fresh set of bees. Stay tuned for the future!! In the meantime, be sure to check out some of the recipes I share!
Much Love & Honey,
Megan & Mark