2015 – Year Eight ~~~* The Best of times, the worst of times
On Whidbey Island, Washington we had a very mild winter (2014-2015). As a result, I had more bees going into the springtime and the following nectar flow. All 3 hives were very busy, healthy and places. When it came time to harvest honey in August I collected 17 gallons from these hives. That is twice as much as normal. These were definitely the best of times for my hives. I figured I would split the hives next year saving money on the growing expense of buying 3lb bee packages.
When October rolled around I reduced the size of the hives. Removing boxes that I thought might get drawn out with honeycomb but didn’t. I also took off supers that I had added in case they needed the room, but never did. Basically I was trying to reduce the hives back to 2 supers…3 maybe if there were a lot of bees. I also noticed as I was doing this that there were the typical early stages of falling showing up with yellow jackets trying to rob the hive. Nothing out of the ordinary though. This all changed in the next month.
Initially, I noticed more yellow jackets out than normal. This what everyone was telling me though, that there were more yellow jackets because of the hot and sunny summer we had. It was indeed a very sunny summer…the sunniest in 30 years I would bet.
About 3 weeks into October, I noticed a lot more yellow jackets around the hives, but when I checked on the bees, all was well. I should have reduced the entrances then, but didn’t.
The first week of November came and I saw an abnormal number of yellow jackets, even for this year. The hives seemed quiet, but it was also below 50 degrees so I thought they might be inside. I closed down the entrances to a small opening, often having to swat the yellow jackets away.
A week later I opened up one of the hives and there were no bees alive or dead in the hive. Literally there were no bees anywhere in the hive.
I checked the other two hives and they were there were no bees alive or dead in those hives.
I decided to put my hives away for the winter. Even though I was wearing a bee suit, there were so many yellow jackets that it really freaked me out. When I moved my bee hives, last year, there were bees that found there way into the cuff of my pants as well as stinging through the suit. I also had an encounter with a yellow jacket nest a few years back that I documented here, where one stung me on the tip of my nose.
I ended up loading all of my hives into the back of my pickup truck and driving for about 5 miles to get them out of the hives and away from the truck. I was then able to put them in the barn for the winter.
These were indeed the worst of times.
On a positive note: This does give me the opportunity to paint, repair and make my hive look better. They have looked rather nasty for years 🙂