LOST: Bees

The bees seemingly active

We love being beekeepers.  We buy special smaller (more natural) sized bees and don’t treat them with any chemicals.  We only feed them honey and Mike makes them special homes that allow them to live closer to how they would in the wild.  We started with two colonies two years ago and added three more last spring for a total of 5 beehives.

After last winter’s unusually cold temperatures (25 below) and the drought that followed in the spring and summer we decided to take them down to my parents house this winter to give them a little R & R.  My parents live a quarter mile from the Rio Grande river in the middle of an area full of small farms filled with alfalfa and flowers.  One night late last fall we waited until after dark so that we were sure everyone was home and sealed the hives.  We packed them in the truck and drove them down to their winter home.  All seemed well.  We set them up and filled their feeders with honey to help them get through the winter.

If they don’t have enough honey stored up we feed them until it gets too cold.  You can kill them if you open the hive in very cold tempertures.  They work hard to keep the hive around 92 degrees year round.   Our two older hives were well established.  The three new ones not so much.  When we fed them the last time we crossed our fingers and wished them luck.

St. Patricks day was a glorious day in Albuquerque.  It was our first time opening the hives since late last fall.  The month before I had visited them and seen activity (although little) in most of the hives.  My Dad reported that the largest hive had bees coming and going last week.  Mike and I went out to the bee yard with our hands full of jars of honey.  We opened the first hive…nothing…not one bee.  It was weird because they still had lots of honey stored away in the combs.

We went to the second hive…nothing, no honey, no bees…

the third…nothing

the fourth…three combs of bees frozen in time,  huddled in balls looking busy but not moving.  They were all dead.

The bees frozen in time

the fifth…empty.

We don’t know why at this point.  I took some photos and will forward them off to a bee mentor and see if he has answers.

For now we are very sad…the feelings are similar to when we lost an entire batch of baby chicks.  We feel somehow responsible like we got demoted from bee keepers to bee havers.

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25 Comments

  1. Posted March 19, 2012 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    Heartbreaking…I’m so sad for you. Bees have had it rough these last few years. 

    • Posted March 20, 2012 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      NM seems to be a very trying environment for bees.  I’m surprised they just took off though.  There was a giant flowering apricot tree 15′ away from the bee yard.

  2. Posted March 19, 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    That is so odd.  I’d be interested in knowing what your bee mentor thinks happened.  Sorry you guys lost so many.  I know how terrible you feel when you lose your animals – been there.

    • Posted March 20, 2012 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      It really gets you down.  Now we have to decide whether to start again this year or not.

  3. Posted March 19, 2012 at 9:50 am | Permalink
    • Posted March 19, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

      That yahoo group is a great resource.

  4. Goat_girl
    Posted March 19, 2012 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    This is heartbreaking. Please post an update if you get any clues to the mystery.

  5. Posted March 19, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Oh no! Are there dead bodies of other bees there or they are gone? How about your parents’ bees? Are they okay? Is that CCD??  Have you seen “ Vanishing of the Bees“?

    • Posted March 19, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

      Even their hive is gone.  We called them right away (they were out of town) and I got the low down from my dad about the bees latest activity.
      Vanishing of the Bees came to the Farmers Market screening so we were able to see it- it’s a great movie

  6. Mike's Mom
    Posted March 19, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Along with you, I am in mourning for the bees (sniff).  I sure hope you get some helpful info.  

    • Posted March 20, 2012 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      Bees are fickle creatures.  We did all we could to make them feel at home.  Maybe they swarmed and are living nearby.

  7. Grumpyrumblings
    Posted March 19, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    :(

  8. Natcarter505
    Posted March 19, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    I am pretty certain my hive is gone too. Haven’t seen any activity even on warm days. Need to open the hive on the next warm day.

    • Posted March 19, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

      I thought about you.  Your hive seemed to be so strong and healthy last fall.  

      • Natcarter505
        Posted March 25, 2012 at 8:52 am | Permalink

        I went to a beekeeping seminar yesterday and have determined that they either left because of humidity (I insulated them and probably covered their vent resulting in moisture and condensation in the hive) or they simply left for a better locale. I had a couple small clusters of dead bees frozen in time too. Doing a closer inspection today to check for disease. Bringing home a new package and queen on Thursday. 

        • Posted March 25, 2012 at 11:22 am | Permalink

          We did not close the entrances on the hives this winter and we don’t insulate them.  The feedback Les Crowder gave us was they decided to go to a different local and the dead bee may be from disease.  We are going to check for mites.  He said there have been lots of reports out of Alb. of bees leaving hives full of honey.  On the other hand places like Pecos (where it’s cold and snowy) so far are not having any abandon beehives.
          Mike and I are in the process of writing an updated post on this.  I’m so glad to hear you are going to continue beekeeping!

  9. Linda Nellett
    Posted March 19, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    Very sorry to hear about your loss. Please post when you’ve got some ideas on what went wrong. I’ve been wanting to get into beekeeping myself, and there’s a lesson here that I need to hear. 

    • Posted March 19, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

      We will definitely follow up and let every one know.  Mike and I both agree we don’t always show the more difficult side of beekeeper, mostly because it’s been so easy for us.

  10. Tracey
    Posted March 21, 2012 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Here’s to hoping the rest are okay and happy in their new home. Hope you do try again and are not too discouraged.

  11. Posted March 24, 2012 at 2:30 am | Permalink

    I’m so sorry Mike n Mollie. Please let all of us readers know if you find out what happened. It sure doesn’t sound like it was your fault at all.

  12. Posted March 26, 2012 at 4:57 am | Permalink

    Very terrible bad news. Sorry to hear. I have a beekeeping friend at work who lost 2 out of 3 hives. He also has plenty of forage for them out back of his property (2 acres of blackberry).  He’s trying again. I promised him several cuttings of Russian sage.  It seems to be magnet for bees in our yard.

One Trackback

  1. By Backyard Chicken Tips | Home Grown New Mexico on March 30, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    [...] years disasterous chicken farming season I was almost ready to give up.  With the bees gone I’m not feeling like a very successful mini-farmer.  So as an unsuccessful mini-farmer I’m [...]

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