As some of you local Michiganders will know, today was an unusually warm day for mid-January with it getting up to 60 degrees. I half expected to see a few honey bees making short flights to relieve themselves, but no such activity was present. I was dying to take a peek under my hive cover just for peace of mind.
At first, when I lifted the cover off, I just thought they were all gone. Peering down through the top of my second box, I didn’t see any movement, nor any bee. I thought maybe they had swarmed a while ago and I just never noticed. So I took the top box off and looked down through the top of my bottom box. Then I saw it. The mass cluster of honey bees in the middle of the hive…all dead. I will post some pictures in a few days.
Many had their tongues sticking out. Many were face-down inside of empty honey cells. I took half the hive a part inspecting it for any reason to why they had all died. There was plenty of honey all throughout the hive, but most of the honey where the cluster had been was all gone. I’m inclined to believe that they starved even when inches away from them was food to live off of. Or they may have froze on one of those especially bitter cold days we had not too long ago. I’m really not sure. In speaking with Roger Sutherland of SEMBA (South Eastern Michigan’s Bee Association), he said that he imagined many beekeepers this year will unfortunately be in the same position as me and reminded me of all the trouble we had in the spring with the frost that killed all our fruit trees and then the drought that came after, that there was very little nectar for the bees to collect this year in Michigan.
It’s a big bummer, but when life deals you lemons…
So, I have all this honey in a dead hive. Hmmm. Even though the reason for me getting into beekeeping was not specifically for the honey, I’m all about making the best of this experience. I’m going to extract some honey at the end of next week. This is my first time extracting honey, so it should be quite the learning experience. Going on SEMBA’s website to look for resources for honey extraction, the club offers a three-day rental for a four-frame manual extractor, stand, uncapping knife, and basket at $15. Should be all I need to get the honey out. I will need to figure out how many jars to buy for about 10-12 frames of honey.
The dilemma I’m contemplating now is I’m not entirely sure if I should extract all of the honey or if I should leave some for my second try with bees this spring. Any of my bee mentors out there know the answer to this?