We got bees about four years ago after we attended a top-bar hive building workshop and built our own top-bar hive. Unfortunately, we didn’t know that the hive had to be completely level or the bees will draw their comb funny and the frames will not be able to be removed. We got busy with other stuff and left them alone, and when we opened the hive up again it was all stuck together and impossible to get the frames apart without really doing a lot of damage. So we let them be.
We would check on them occasionally, and every May they would swarm. We kept wanting to get a different hive and transfer them over or catch one of the swarms, but we were just too darn busy with other things, like building fences and running water pipes so we could use all the pasture for grazing, not to mention milking animals every day.
We moved our brew grain area to where the rabbits used to be this past week – that’s where the hive was, too. The cows had leaned over the fence and devoured a whole bin of it when it was at the top of the garden, and we can’t have that. The bee/rabbit area has a fence around it, and is shady, so I moved my starts up there, too because they were getting fried in the garden, but if they weren’t behind a fence Horrible Florible (Flora’s new nickname) would devour them because she’s still small enough to duck under the electric fences and not get too bad of a zap. She was very bad for the cauliflower this year. So that was what brought us to notice the bees a little better this week.
I first noticed that there were no bees going in and out, and so I carefully opened the hive. It was chilly and close to sunset, so I thought maybe they were not very active just then. It smelled sweet and fermented and sick when I got the top off, so I knew something was wrong. I had quite a time prying the frames apart. Maggots poured out of the rotting comb, and the whole front of the hive was covered in the cocoons of hive moths and writhing with the larve of hive beetles. We burned it, all of it, to keep these pests from just making more. Goodbye to our bees, for now.
When we have more time, perhaps next year, or the year after, we would like to get bees again. But we want to do them right next time.