… … it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, … …
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities — English novelist (1812 – 1870)
Saturday had finally come. The weather was gorgeous, and I was excited to check up on the girls. They had made such progress with their comb building and they appeared to be in good spirits, bringing in an exception amount of different colored pollen, bright orange, bright yellow and pale yellow.
I started at the false back and began working my way forward. There are currently four Honey Top Bars (“HTB”) and twelve Top Bars (“TB”) in front of the false back. There was no comb built on any of the HTBs. I started to proceed through the TBs. I carefully pried each bar apart and moved it towards the false back in the space created from removing two of the TBs. I find comb on TB#8.
“Wow, that’s amazing” I say to myself. Here are the girls peaking up as I move bars.
TB#7, bigger comb… TB#6 comb with brood. What an amazing sight! TB#5 more brood. The same thing on TBs #4, #3, #2 and #1! TB#1 is basically completely sealed. But for some curious reason all of the boys were hanging out on TB#1. “Seems odd that they all hang out here” I think.
Everything is looking Great! Now I need to find Queen Victoria. I begin to inspect each side and put the TBs back in place. I find Queen Vicky on TB#5. I honestly cannot tell anything different about her. I know her abdomen is supposedly longer, but it honestly does not look that way to me. Thank goodness she is marked otherwise I would never find her. She seems to be hanging out at the very top of the TB, which concerns me. I snap a few Glamor Shots of Her Majesty.
I place the top bar down into the hive. However, concerns enter my mind about moving TB#6 up against her so I decide to move TB#5 against TB#6 and then move both together as a single unit. I slowly attempt to work the bars together and get the girls back in, which I hadn’t had any problems with so far.
And then it happened. TRAGEDY BEYOND BELIEF. The entire comb falls off the TB. Thinking back now with almost a day to replay the horror over and over in my mind, I believe I may have tilted the TB towards me in an effort to persuade the girls in. The entire comb broke off, with Queen Vicky on the edge falling into and onto the next comb.
I stand there in disbelief. What have I done? How do I fix this? I try to remain calm. The girls are NOT happy at this time. I had better put on my gloves I tell myself. Yes… I had actually been doing everything prior to this without gloves. The day had been going so well. Lot of future baby bees and no gloves. And now this.
I put my gloves on and remove some more TBs to give myself additional working space. I use my hive tool to try and gently move the broken comb. There is nectar and/or syrup running all over the place now. I have to reach into the hive and try to retrieve some of the comb. It breaks in my hand. I place the piece into my orange bucket. I remove some more. There are poor bees worm babies falling out. I’m so upset. Luckily I am able to remove a very large section of capped brood. I get the broken comb out and look and the mess that I have created.
I quickly had to determine a course of action. Do I completely take away the entire comb? I feel absolutely horrible. I come to a decision. I will leave some of the parts that appear to have pollen and nectar so that the girls can move it to other areas of the hive. There’s no reason all of their hard work should be a total waste. I then decide to leave the big section of sealed brood against the false back in hopes that perhaps some of the babies might survive.
I will diligently watch this over the upcoming week. If it appears it may be salvageable, I’ll leave it until I move the false back. Otherwise I will remove it next Saturday.
I replace the remaining TBs and close up the hive. I walk back to the house dejected with my head hanging… the Hindenburg quote, slightly modified, ringing in my ears…. “Ooooohhhhh the Beemanity.” I say a prayer for all of the lost little bee babies.
As of today (Sunday), the girls appear to already have removed the nectar and the majority of the pollen from the two smaller pieces I left. And they are doing something on the larger piece. Are they attending to it ? Or trying to remove the horrific aftermath?
I make a batch of 1:1 syrup for the girls and put it out for them, but they don’t take it. Maybe that’s a good sign that they have found a true nectar flow. I check the girls throughout the day. I see busy bees everywhere. I occasionally witness a girl removing a little white corpse.
I also watch a very bizarre occurrence. I observe one of the girls literally drag around and then fly off with one of the boys. He wasn’t dead and didn’t seem injured. But she literally drug him off the edge and flew off with him.
Around 4pm, I was trying to remove a little bit of cactus from an area in front of the hive when I feel this incredible burning sensation on the front of my shin. I look down and there’s a rogue girl hanging on my leg.
“Sh!t…. this hurts…. It’s burning like a hot poker being pushed into my leg!” I’m thinking to myself. I quickly vacate the hive premises and look at my leg. The poor girl is now gone, having sacrificed herself, but I see the stinger. I scratch it out of my leg and head inside to put ice on my first battle wound.
So there it is, the good, the bad, and the ugly. A weekend with such amazing highs unfortunately clouded with such loss. I only hope that my decision to leave some of the sealed brood was the right decision.