Winter’s Coming

As I kneel down next to the bees, who are buzzing around half-empty trays collecting what’s leftover from this year’s harvest (we leave the trays outside once we’ve collected from them, to help supplement the small number of flowers so late in the season), I can’t help but anticipate winter.

The air, although warm for this time of year, with temperatures hovering around ten to thirteen degrees, holds the fresh smell of winter. The world up here has already gotten quieter, after the usual hustle and bustle of travellers passing through.

Sitting here watching the bees, I am always struck by how swiftly they move, with their unwavering purpose and determination, as they continue to store food for winter. Given the heat beaming down with the day’s sun, there’s a lot of activity outside the hive, as they take full advantage of the few warm days we have left.

It’s now time that we take out the varroa mite treatment strips we had put in the hive just over a month ago, as the package suggested they stay in for 4-6 weeks, and just one of the many things we overlooked when we first began beekeeping.

This past spring, we had been devasted to find out that our first colony, the bees we inherited with the house, had perished with an infestation of varroa mites. Knowing now that strips are necessary to help keep them at bay, we’re thankful to have gotten the strips into the hive just in time. We owe it not only to our now-thriving new colony, but to those we had lost, so the same mistakes don’t happen again.

Looking back, although my heart still aches with guilt, I am grateful for the insight and experience we had, cleaning out the hive in preparation for the new bees. We got the chance to take it apart, peice by piece, really getting to see the intricacies of the hive, something that we could not have done, had they had survived the winter. It gives me peace knowing that we learned from this experience, and that we can do right by the bees that come next. As quote from Maya Angelou comes to mind, “when we know better, we do better“.

This time of year (usually early November), when the strips are taken out, most beekeeper’s will insulate the hive, as this is easy to do and avoids disrupting the bees more than is necessary. Though given the abnormally high recent temperatures, we’ll likely hold off a little while longer.

So, as I sit, humbled as always by the bees, they remind me that we all have a mighty purpose in this vast landscape we call life. And theirs, one that we as humankind relies so heavily on, as we do with all the pollinators, I can only hope to make even but a small difference in their dwindling population by helping keep one hive buzzing with life.

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