At the start of Spring, all seemed well with our hive. The hive had survived the winter and on a warm day we could see lots of activity outside the hive (we didn’t open the hive as we knew they had plenty of surplus honey to get them through the winter). Our queen had been a super-egg-laying queen. All last year she built her colony at a furious pace and we were delighted, albeit lucky, to have got such a brilliant queen from our mentor.
Shortly after our first Spring visit, we experienced two freak weather events in the space of a few weeks. The first was severe flooding around the farm, the second was a freak winter storm with heavy hail, snow and cold temperatures, which lasted only a day. It concerned me and we checked on the hives after the flood – all was fine. After the snow storm, the hive was quiet. No bee activity at all, the first time we had seen this. I called Jeff our mentor and he said not to worry too much as it was a cool evening and the bees were probably inside doing what they should have been doing – keeping inside and warm.
As it turns out, we did have problems with our hive. On subsequent checks, it became obvious that our queen had stopped laying eggs. Our super queen, had stopped building her colony and the bees were extremely depleted. The reason? It’s not clear. Some beekeepers seem to think it may be the quality of the drones. Queens rely on one mating in the first year to last a few years, and if the drone quality is poor, she may not continue to produce eggs year after year.
Weather, rodents, disease: these all can impact honeybees. It wasn’t the weather that affected our hive, it was some natural cause relating to the queen. Honeybees have a lot to cope with to survive. Jeff stepped in and replaced our queen, but this too was not to survive. The queen had disappeared! Either she has swarmed or left the hive. A bit embarrassing for a new beekeeper. A harsh lesson for us.