Ah well, I’ve been saying for weeks that Mars is very weak. It turns out I’ve been mixing up my hives and it was Jupiter all along. I found no debris on the bottom board before work yesterday, and at the end of the rather warm day the hive was already being robbed out. A cluster of dead bees on the comb and a few others on the bottom.
Let me explain. Since the fall I have been checking mite drops from my two hives with screened bottom boards: Mars and Jupiter. All this time I have been recording the mite drop correctly: Mars on the left and Jupiter on the right. In my post Our Hives they are a Changin’ on February 4 the graph showed the proper values and names for both Mars and Jupiter.
In recent weeks, for some reason, I have been saying that Mars is weak, when in fact Mars was doing fine. Jupiter was the weak one, and now she is gone. The natural and beekeeper contributions that may have contributed to its demise seem to be the following:
- Multiple swarms: Last year Jupiter swarmed at least twice, and possible more. I split the hive on April 11 to create Ganymede, and caught the swarm on April 24 to create Saturn. Then in July I found the hive held few bees and a number of capped queen cells, indicating she had probably swarmed again. The poor hive finished the season with a rather low population.
- Late feeding: I didn’t feed my hives until September / October rolled around. This means the hive was ramping down in August since little nectar was available. If I had fed Jupiter in July and August, she might have built up some population and been stronger going into winter.
- Winter treatment: I applied an oxalic acid dribble in December, even though Jupiter did not seem to have a mite problem. Mars did have a problem, so I was trying to be safe and treat every hive. In Jupiter’s small population, perhaps the extra stress weakened the bees just enough to impact the hive a few months later.
I will never know for sure. This is my first hive loss, so even though not unexpected it is a little sad. There was food to be had in the hive, and the temperatures were warm the prior days. I think the bees were just too weak to move it close enough to keep the cluster going, and as you can see from the picture it was probably too small to really be viable.
With more experience, perhaps I could have moved bees over from Mars a few weeks earlier to augment Jupiter’s failing population and save the hive. With the cold weather and my lack of any experience, I wasn’t comfortable stealing from Mars in a possibly vain attempt to rescue Jupiter.
Nobody forgets a good teacher
This saying appeared in Thomas William Bicknell’s 1911 work A History of Rhode Island Normal School, where on page 79 he says “A good pupil never forgets a good teacher. Each lives in the other.”
I found the reference in The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs. According to my Facts on File book, the slogan “no one forgets a good teacher” was resurrected in the late 1990’s by the UK government in a campaign to recruit more teachers.
When I came across the phrase, it immediately captured the wistful fondness for long-ago good teachers and good friends. It seems appropriate to use for a once-favored hive. Jupiter re-queened and swarmed multiple times in her two years with me, and was always gentle and kind during my inspections. She lives on in her prodigy, including both Saturn and Ganymede, as I detailed in my June 2016 post Drops of Jupiter in her hive.
May you prosper and find honey.
2 thoughts on “Nobody forgets a good beehive”
Sorry to hear this. It may be that nothing you could have done would have saved the colony, so don’t beat yourself up too much.
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I know, and I’m not. It never occurred to me that I should worry about a low population. I was focused on having low mites and enough food. Running out of bees is yet another item to keep in mind. Learn something new every year.