Good news this summer! Our rescued honeybees made it through the winter – and when Community Farm and Food Assistant Yael Girard peeked inside the hive recently, she had this story to tell:
“The air was hot and heavy with humidity. Below the sounds of bird chirps and wind across the hayfield hummed the low vibration of thousands of tiny bodies beating in unison. The breeze shifted, and the smell of wildflower honey, rich and sweet, filled the air. Lifting off the propolis covered lid of the SAHC Community Farm beehive, I rejoiced to see tiny bee bodies hard at work.
Last September, I stumbled upon a swarm of bees that had lost their home. We were able to successfully hive them, but it came with the understanding that they might not make it through the winter. These days, even experienced beekeepers with established healthy colonies are losing multiple hives each year. This colony had lost its home, all its honey and pollen stores, and all its developing brood. The entire swarm was no bigger than a volleyball when clustered together. I talked with several beekeeping experts in the area and they said our chances weren’t great given all those factors. However, I knew the other option was to let them attempt to survive without assistance, and I wasn’t ready to give up on them yet.
Throughout the brutally cold winter we fed the bees a sugar syrup mixture and checked on them regularly. In the dead of winter, the group was no bigger than a softball. Each visit to the hive brought the dread that upon lifting the lid we would find it either deserted or full of dead bees. We underestimated our swarm. Through the negative zero days and nights they beat their wings and huddled closer together. On a spring day with temperatures just over 60 degrees I saw the first few worker bees crawl outside, stretch their wings in the sun, and begin the seasonal search for flowers.
Since then, the bees have astounded us. At this point, they have successfully filled 3 medium hive bodies with honey, pollen, and brood. These boxes will be left for the colony to use through the coming winter, instead of feeding them. This past week, I added yet another super to the hive. From this point on, newly added boxes will be exclusively “honey supers.” This means that any additional honey the bees produce can be harvested. We probably won’t get much this first year, but even a taste of honey from these hard working ladies is worth the effort. More importantly, we know that we have saved a colony of valuable pollinators!”