We opened up our hive this week, but the circumstances for opening it were not at all what we anticipated. The next time we opened our hive should have been to harvest a year’s worth of honey. Pounds and pounds, and mason jars and mason jars worth. It would be our first harvest, and I was giddy with excitement at the thought of it. We couldn’t wait to offer honey as an add-on to our CSA boxes and use it to feed our family, sweeten our tea, and ward off colds.
I received a text while in the ER Tuesday from Chris saying that our hive had swarmed.
Swarming is an important and natural part of the reproductive cycle of bees, and a sign of a healthy hive, but as my sister empathetically stated, swarming is like a cattleman losing all their calves.
Most of our bees are gone and they took all their honey with them for the journey ahead. We think they maybe even swarmed again. We should have checked on them more. We should have split the hive. We should have noticed the 15 or so swarm cells protruding from the sides of the comb. We should have added extra bars and created more space.
We are humbled- so much of what we are doing is so much bigger than us. Beekeeping especially takes years of practice, research, study, apprenticeship, and experimentation. And even then, swarming is sometimes inevitable and unpreventable, even for the experienced apiarist. But that doesn’t mean it is not devastating.
We are watching and waiting to see what happens with the hive. Maybe there is a newly hatched virgin queen who has taken her virgin flight. Or maybe we have a hive comprised entirely of workers and drones that will quickly die off with no queen to fertilize the eggs. All we know enough to do now is to watch and wait.
In the meantime, we are sending out emails, keeping spare bee suits in our cars, combing Craigslist, and reminding our friends that if they see or hear of a swarm, we will come get it.
Maybe next spring we’ll harvest. Maybe.