M took the hive apart Thursday afternoon to take a look, and possibly combine good frames into one brood box to give the bees less space to manage. There was no sign of the queen. He said there was only about a dozen bees still hanging out.
The brood frames have pollen and honey stored in them. They are covered with mold as well. Talking about it, we think something else caused the bees to go and the mold was a secondary opportunistic infection. We don't seen any signs of foul brood or chalk brood - there is no brood. Just honey and bee bread. We know the hive was healthy and thriving in mid-October. I found the inner hive cover to not be glued down in late December. Something must have gone astray after the last harvest.
I started a bit of a hive autopsy, but remaining (and robber?) bees were about, so I left them. I couldn't help but think I was being callous to be pulling the hive apart so soon, reminded me of the delicate process of cleaning up after a bad call on the ambulance. I backed away. Hopefully the bees can salvage honey and benefit other bees. There are other days for examination.
We took a walk to the store for dinner. It was good to walk and process. Losing a hive is a lot harder than I thought it would be. There is an air of sadness about the house tonight.
There are questions that will never be answered. That's ultimately what we are left with. An amazing year of a new experience, 175 pounds of honey, a good amount of money from honey sales, a few stings, and a lot of questions.
This afternoon, I poured a glass of wine and M a pint of beer, and we sat on the deck overlooking the garden. We choose to hope the bees went to find a more positive future. We listened to the ravens, and watched a pair of crows groom each other. A hummingbird darted around. A bumble bee buzzed loudly by. Mia hoped from lap to lap. Looking at the strong garden and the bursting plum tree, it's good to feel hopeful. It's good to think about setting up a new hive. And there is a lot of sweetness left.
Thank you, bees. You brought sweetness into my life. You made people that used terms like "bee vomit" turn into honey aficionados. Your labors were the gift of choice. You gave drawn comb to your sisters. Your honey traveled half of the globe, China to Wales, with many stops in between. Through you I met an amazing community, and I learned a lot about myself. I'm sorry you left. You were loved. You changed lives.