After a cold and rainy week, we had a break in the weather and took the opportunity to open up our weak Elizabeth Taylor hive. Sadly, and shockingly, the entire colony was gone. There were no live bees, there were no eggs, and there was no larvae. We saw a few dead bees, like this one, still latched onto various hive surfaces. No developing brood meant that the queen had stopped laying eggs, either because she was preparing to fly away, or because she had died. Did we kill the queen when the hive was knocked over? We don't know. We didn't go hunting for our queen after the hive was knocked over. Opening a hive in the winter can be very damaging to bees, and neither Robb nor I are good at finding our queens. We thought that the best thing to do would be to leave the bees alone, and let them regroup.
Disturbingly, we saw bees that must have starved as they were hatching into the world. An extended tongue on a dead bee is said to be a sign of starvation. This baby bee was born into an empty home, with no nurse bees to care for it.
The strange thing is that this hive had loads of honey stores.
It also had a huge amount of high protein pollen.
However, if you look closely, you'll see that with no bees to maintain the storehouses, the pollen has started to grow mold.
With a heavy heart, I harvested the frames of honey. We had treated these bees with a miticide back in September, and so this particular honey is potentially unsafe for human consumption. Since I don't know what happened to our hive, I did not want to cross-contaminate by feeding it to our other bees, so I dumped the honey on our compost pile. Disposing of the honey was a profoundly depressing act.
I drained the honey out of the wax combs, because I think the wax is still salvageable.
Over the next few days, Robb and I will be reading over our bee books, to try to figure out what went wrong. This particular hive had been struggling all winter long, but we really don't know what caused their disappearance.
Happily, our other colony of bees, the Gloriana hive is thriving. These bees are intensely busy, and all seems well in their world.