Sunday, December 23, 2012

Coming down

I suppose it's only reasonable that we should be brought town from the outrageous euphoria we've been feeling since we moved to our land. Sure, we've been feeling bloody exhausted these last 5 months (can you believe it!?) but it's been a good feeling, because we're building our dreams - how can that not feel good? Take this morning, for example. We rose fairly early thanks to our little friend Oscar, and trotted off down the road to gather some fruits, which looked like this, 

and set to work cooking a delicious breakfast, which looked like this. 

We were quite chuffed, and talked about how (even though we are glad we didn't have to grow/harvest/grind the wheat for the flour in our pikelets) it is quite lovely to pick stuff for one's meals, and how it's sad so many people are divorced from this simple pleasure rah rah rah. We were feeling all excited and happy about the fact that, in a year or so, we'd even have our own honey to put on a breakfast like this. Or so we thought.
A few days ago I'd gone up to check on our loony chickens, and noticed a sickening lack of activity around the beehive. I actually felt ill, because I think I knew, in my heart of hearts, that this was really quite bad. The day before, I'd seen a lot of activity around the hive, and thought, for a second, "I wonder if the bees are preparing to swarm?" but promptly dismissed this thought because it's not swarming season. Pearlie, ever the optimist, told me not to worry - she'd seen a  few bees hovering around the entrance to the hive, and there sure were a lot of bees in the garden. So we left it. But my instinct about the bees wouldn't leave me, and I felt more than a little bit funny every time I looked at the hive.
Today when we did our egg run, I couldn't contain myself. I opened the hive, and the sick-tummy feeling got a whole lot worse. Our bees were gone. All of them. And our combs were looking as sick as my tummy felt, because they were infested with the larvae of the small hive beetle.

Small hive beetle larvae raiding our honey, which had been deserted by the bees 

When I did my natural beekeeping course, we spent quite a bit of time discussing the various kinds of pests that can affect a beehive. I was really affected by this discussion, and I can distinctly remember thinking "oh how awful it would be to get small hive beetle". And now, here we are. Our bucolic euphoria brought crashing down to a pretty depressing reality by some tiny tiny maggots destroying our beautiful white comb and eating our honey.

I was close to tears. Pearlie assured me it was a good learning experience, and I know it's true, but a 'learning experience' is pretty cold comfort when 1000 little guys who'd become a part of our daily lives had just up and left us, forced from their home by some grotty maggots. Somehow I feel like we failed them - our bees. And it's true I was really naive about the potential reality of hive pests. I was so in awe of the bees' self-sufficiency, I foolishly thought they were invincible. And I guess in a way they kind of are - they recognised when they had an infestation of unfriendly larvae, and they high-tailed it out of there, leaving us to deal with our bumbling, human grief.
It was big blow, for sure, but I know we'll get back on the beekeeping ride sooner or later. For now we need to declare our infestation to the DPI (it's a notifiable pest) and clean our hive, and then we need to find some more bees. But first we need to thoughtfully ponder the lessons we've learned from this experience, and take what we can from our feelings of sadness. 


  1. Oh my darlings I'm feeling your grief. Sorry for this loss. Vx

  2. Oh no! That's terrible. Bloody maggots!!! Do bees come back??? Obviously I am a complete novice when it comes to bees. I'm hoping they are like ducks and geese. But I imagine they aren't... What a blow.
    I hope you can still have a Merry Christmas xx

  3. Oh darlings we're so sorry to hear this :( That's just so sad the hive beetle moved in and the bees moved out, feeling your loss.

    ally and rich xx

  4. Sorry :-(

    I lost a hive a few years ago so I can understand how you feel. I had to move my hive to my dads place after my neighbor went crazy about me keeping bees. My Dad had them on a nearby canola crop - and then overnight all his and my hive died overnight. We assume the farmer sprayed a systemic pesticide - because we haven't been able to use the hives since. Each swarm we've tried to put back in the hive has vacated straight away.

    I'll have bees again in a few weeks - and am part excited but also part nervous about the responsibility again.

    Good luck cleaning out your hive and getting more bees.