Spring is a fabulous time of year for us. Not only is the landscape greening, but this is when Stuart can really get into the hives to see which ones have made it through the winter, which might be weakened or strong enough to breed, and how many we have lost overall. The apiary on our property was the focus of Stuart’s attention last weekend, making it easy for me to get pictures!

Stuart spends a great deal of time watching. He watches the chickens, individually and as a flock. He watches the bees, aware of what is going on in each hive and each apiary and notices changes in our surroundings. It’s this level of observation that allows us to respond quickly when something unusual happens.

We’ve lost about 50% of our hives over winter, leaving us with 34. There are myriad reasons for a hive to die, but we recognize that the late summer drought last year weakened hives as they went into winter. We also don’t use antibiotics, miticides or powdered sugar in our hives, opting instead to attempt to raise survivor bees from selected stock. In the context of an environment filled with toxic chemicals and pesticides, we expect hive loss each year, although it doesn’t make it any easier.

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In the picture above you can see where mice chewed through wax to build a nest, the remains of which can be seen at Stuart’s feet. Even using mouse guards in the winter, sometimes they still get in through the bottom. By the time we open up the hives in the spring, the mice are long dead having been stung to death by bees guarding the hive.