It seems like only yesterday when I donned my beekeeping gear for the first time. Four years later, I still feel that rush of anticipation when I slip into my suit. Another install and a new year of beekeeping adventures.
Slipping Into Another Beekeeping Adventure
Getting Kicked, The Ups-and-Downs of Beekeeping
Since I last journaled, my third year as a beekeeper was in full swing. I was able to get my bees through the summer and even managed to harvest a little honey from them (happy dance)! My bees went into winter with fully stocked stores and little evidence of varroa mites. I thought this was my year to finally get my hives to survive the winter. Mother Nature laughed.
Northern Minnesota’s winter was a relatively mild one this year, that is up until a very cold snap in February. Temperatures hit below -30°F for several days. Temperatures like these are hard to bear even as a human, let alone a small creature like the honey bee. It is with this nasty cold spell, I believe, silence enveloped my hives.
An Unfortunate Hive Task
I walked away from my hives with a heavy heart, no longer seeing or hearing any evidence that the occupants inside were alive in the late winter. I waited for warmer weather for yet again, the unfortunate task of inspecting and cleaning.
Opening a dead hive is never pleasant, but I owe it to the previous occupants to learn from their last days. What I found was a relatively clean hive with no sign of disease and frames full of honey. These bees definitely did not die from starvation. Giving the timing and the evidence; was it the bitter cold? It has me thinking so.
Throwing in the Towel
To be totally honest, after losing my hives for the third winter I was ready to throw in the towel. I did not feel that beekeeping was a good fit for me and that maybe I should just quit. I stewed in my pity for the beginning of spring. It wasn’t until the snow started to clear that I found myself more optimistic.
My change of heart was triggered by a series of small but impactful thoughts. The first hit me with a lump forming in my throat and stomach; no bees meant I would not get to experience the joy of seeing my girls working in the garden or on our fruit trees. I know, that might sound silly to a non-beekeeper, but personally, I find it fascinating watching these creatures and building a connection to them thru beekeeping. It’s a bond I realized I’m not yet ready to give up on.
The second was more of a personality reflection than anything else. People who know me know that I can have a pretty wicked stubborn streak. I actually got angry with myself when it got to time to throw in the towel or buck up and get bees again. The thought of giving in and giving up was just too easy, I had to give it a go again. Bam! Bees ordered! *mic drop*
A New Beekeeping Season, a Fresh Start
Out of all this, one lesson from my first season of beekeeping was brought up again; I am learning and always will be. Mistakes will be made, things will happen out of your control but you just gotta embrace it. Learn, adapt, and don’t give up. Beekeeping season number four will be filled with challenges, some new and some continued struggles, and it’s all a part of the journey.
I hope you are all as excited for this beekeeping season as I am. I’d love to hear whatever trials and triumphs you’ve experienced this previous year or even this new season. As always, good luck in all your beekeeping adventures!