We’ve had some unseasonably warm temps in Upper Michigan this week, so I was able to pop the lids on my four beehives to check emergency food supplies.

All dead.

Beekeeping is tricky business. Helping bees through a northern winter requires a dry hive, emergency food (in case they burn through all the honey stores you leave them), and keeping Varroa counts low. The Varroa mite is a parasitic mite that weakens bees and makes them more susceptible to maladies. We use a variety of organically approved treatments to keep Varroa population low spring through fall so bees can go into winter strong. I felt good about these colonies when I applied my last treatment in the fall and added emergency food and pine shavings to control moisture. Mite counts were low and bee populations were solid.

Still, my bees are dead.

It’s not uncommon for northern beekeepers to lose their bees each year and have to buy more in the spring ($150-$200 for a few pounds of bees and a queen), but it’s still a bummer.

If you’re gonna be a beekeeper, you gotta be tough.

It’s hot, sweaty, heavy, squinty-eyed work that often ends in what you see here.

You bent over these boxes for three seasons admiring the intricacies of your bees.

You marveled at the egg-laying ability of an amazing queen and texted pics to your beekeeper friends: Check out this brood pattern!

You were careful not to take too much honey in the fall because you knew they’d need it more than you do.

You screwed your mouse guards into place across entrances when a chill hit the air and whispered “See you in the spring,” as you closed the lid on the season.

Three months later, on a sunny day in February, everyone is dead.

It would be easy to quit. To give up. Sell all the equipment and leave the complicated, sticky work behind.

But beekeeping has a hold on you. In a world that can seem cruel and chaotic, you need those bees.

You need the hope of ordering bees with your club in the dead of winter.

The excitement of shaking a box of bees into your hive on delivery day and carefully tucking the queen between two frames.

The awe of watching the population double and triple through the season.

The comforting, droning hum you hear as you approach the hives in high summer.

The wonder as you hold a brood frame in your hands and watch a fuzzy baby bee emerge from a cell.

The winter distraction of wondering how they’re doing out there, and watching the forecast for a sunny, 48 degree day so you can sneak a look.

If you’re gonna bee a beekeeper you gotta be tough.

Sometimes crazy.

Always hopeful.

I think I’ll get those bees ordered today.

8 thoughts on “Honeybees

  1. Thank you for the update. So sorry to hear your bees did not make it this year. I learned quite a lot about beekeeping from your post.


    1. Thank you, Suzanne! Bees are truly amazing. Maybe some day my simple brain will catch up to their complex society and I’ll get better and helping them through winter! 💛🐝

      It’s always nice to hear from you. Thanks for continuing to read my posts. It means a lot to me!


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