adventures in beekeeping: and then there were none…

It’s with a heavy heart that I write this post, dear friends. A bee-apolocypse has hit our our beehive; it has collapsed, disappeared, extinguished. All that remained were a few die-hard stragglers, a pile of bee corpses, and a nearly empty hive with nothing but yellow jackets and wasps slurping up the little sweet stuff that remained.

As you may recall, not long ago we decided to collapse our two hives into one. One hive was just not producing enough filled honeycomb to survive a winter, while the other seemed to be thriving. That appeared to be a success, and when we last checked on them a few weeks ago, two levels were jam-packed with bees and there was a lot of honey. Not much of it was capped off though, so we were a little concerned that they only had a few weeks left to make some more supplies and food for the winter. To help them along, we added a shallow pool of sugar water on top. There was a screen inside of it, which is supposed to prevent the bees from falling in and drowning. To make it a little easier for them reach the water, we propped open the top of the hive with a little stone, so they could easily exit from the top and the bottom.

When we arrived to check on them the other Saturday, three weeks had passed and we could tell immediately something was wrong. It was a bright and sunny day but from the distance there didn’t see to be much activity coming in and out of the hive’s front door. As soon as we got closer, we immediately noticed that all the buzzing things weren’t honey bees at all, but rather yellow jackets. The shallow pool was empty of sugar water now, but there as a thick layer of dead bees inside. Either they drowned or engaged in a battle. But the hundred or so bee bodies in the pool didn’t represent the thousands that should have been remained in the hive. As we cracked open the top level, we knew immediately. The bees were gone. File after file was was dry of all honey and pollen. A scattering of yellow jackets swarmed greedily around.

We’re not sure what went wrong, but we have a few hypothesis.

1. Leaving the top of the hive open allowed predators to move in. Still, a yellow jacket is usually no match for a honey bee hive.

2. Too many drowned in the pool, leaving the hive week. They fled because of that.

3. It’s a bad place to put a hive. Perhaps our tiny 1/3 of an acre plot is just not conducive for honey bee hives. It’s on the edge of the woods, and maybe the feral critters and flying things are just to many. Who knows.

4. We don’t tend to the bees closely enough. Two, sometimes three, weeks pass between our visits to the hives. Perhaps that is leaving them alone and unattended too long. If we were there monitoring things more closely, perhaps we could have changed its course.

5. Or, is this a classic case of hive collapse that we have been reading about with worry?

Needless to say, losing the hive is devastating. Not only did we invest a lot of money and effort into the endeavor (about $500 or so total), but we loved the way having a hive enriches our lives. Isadora and her friends are eager pupils. We were fantasizing about what we could label our honey in the springtime. All for naught.

Of course we’ll continue to study and support local beekeeping efforts, but I don’t know if we’ll make the attempt to house our own again. Perhaps we can find someone with a farm or just a robust garden that would welcome us planting a hive on their property.

Please let us know if you know of anyone in Columbia or Green counties who might be game to try this adventure with us next year.


From our partners

That’s terrible. So sorry about your bees! :-(


I am sad to read you lost your bees. I am always impressed with beekeepers. It is hard to understand what happens when we connect with nature without the handbook, you just don’t know what happened.

sniff is correct…


I’m so sorry about your bees. I will miss the updates


Do you have any local professional beekeepers that might be able to advise you for the next time? It sounds as if you have many thoughts on what could be the trouble, but no real way of determining on your own. Better luck next year!