Save the Bees
I have been amazed and fascinated by bees since we got our first bee hive two years ago. We have been fortunate with our beekeeping thus far, and we added a second hive last year. As winter turned to spring, I began watching the bee hives for signs of life, hoping that both hives would survive the winter. I had been spending quite a bit of time sitting in the chicken yard with my ailing rooster Reuben, making sure he was getting enough to eat and drink, when I started noticing something I had not seen before. The bees had discovered his waterer, and despite the fact that there were several water sources closer to their hive (including the one on the back deck pictured above), the bees began making regular trips to drink out of Reuben’s waterer. On the coldest mornings when I would go up to visit Reuben, I would notice several bees had not made it back to the hive the night before and were floating in Reuben’s waterer, waterlogged and apparently dead. I scooped them out of the water and put them on top of the little table in his pen. The next time I came out to visit Reuben, the bees looked better after having dried out a bit, and now they only looked half dead. I picked up a bee, held it in my hand, and gently blew on it. To my surprise, the bee moved its legs a bit. Wow, I thought, these bees were amazingly not dead after not only spending the night outside the hive, but drenched in cold water!
I brought several bees inside the house and put them on a napkin under a lamp. When I returned to check on them a couple of hours later, they had started to recover and were showing signs of life. Gradually they got up on their feet and started walking around a bit. I inverted a plastic bowl over the top of them just to make sure they did not stray too far. I put a drop of honey on a toothpick and soon they were gobbling it up through their proboscis. Now that was a pretty cool thing to observe. After a couple more hours, the bees were all very active and appeared ready to return to their hive. I put the lid on the container and carried them outside to the hive and off they flew to rejoin the hive. This was a fun experience, and I confess that I did do this a few more times. Occasionally when I would be up with Reuben, breathing into my cupped hand, my husband would see me and yell “Are you giving mouth to mouth to the bees again?” Once the warmer spring temperatures arrived, I saw fewer bees floating in Reuben’s waterer in the morning, and I didn’t feel the need to save every bee. Both of our hives are now bursting at the seems, and now my thoughts have turned to wondering whether one of our hives will swarm this year as one did last year. Not that that is a bad thing, especially out here in the country where a bee swarm is not likely to cause anyone to panic. A bee swarm is a sign that the bee colony is strong enough to reproduce, and it is also an amazing behavior to observe.