Once upon a time there were three bears and in three days, two of eleven hives that survived the brutal Alberta winter were also decimated…
Worth and I headed out to the Ranch on March 16th for the first time in 2019. Right at zero degrees, it was a brilliant day unlike the previous weeks of continuous minus 30 degree weather.
Seeing the hives buried deep in the snow left us feeling uneasy about the winter survival rate. Still too cold, we resisted the urge to peek and instead, dug out the electric fence to find it in good working order.
We were instantly elated when we returned again on April 14th to find bees buzzing about. However, the roller coaster we were riding plummeted to dark depths when we found that only two of eleven hives survived the winter. The sugar water that the bees were fed in September was long gone as were the plentiful honey stores that we refrained from stealing in August. Many of the famished bees were buried head first in the brittle wax, others were piled in the bottom of the hives, rotting, and in one, along side an emaciated mouse. We placed sugar patties on top of the frames and treated with Apivar. Veteran beekeepers that we spoke to also found some dead-outs due to lack of food, dampness, nosema or simply just for being a weak hive. I learned that bees tend to winter better with frames that contain older and thicker beeswax.
FROM BAD TO WORSE…
Nothing could prepare us for the chaos and anarchy when we returned to the Ranch on May 4th. Frames were mauled and gently mangled… some seemingly forgotten deep in the bush. The boxes were strewn all about but still intact with only one hive cover munched. Our two live hives were also toppled with not a bee in sight. The electric fence was working but still somehow this security feature had been breached.
Worth and I reluctantly packed up hives or parts thereof to take back to the farm for cleaning and treatment with glacial acetic acid. The card from the trail cam was removed to discover what had actually transpired at the scene of the multiple murders.
It was just as we thought!! The kill was driven by Adrastus’ hunger fueled ingenuity and, the patience and perseverance of Ananke and Aristaeus.