It’s officially Spring, but that never means too much on our island, where cold winds blowing off 40-degree ocean waters holds our air temperatures down. As we write this, it’s a typical Aquidneck Island March day – thoroughly gray, on and off patches of rain, and a general feeling of rawness in the air.
Still, it’s time to get going. We’ve almost completed our assessment of the hives at Vaucluse.
Of the 24 we went into the winter with, some survived and some didn’t make it. We haven’t seen any signs of disease yet, and the hives were left with plenty of honey, so the most likely cause of death was varroa mites.
Deadouts are disappointing. There’s always a feeling of failure, of self-doubt: what could we have done differently? In this case, the late summer and fall treatments with Apivar may not have been enough. We’re looking into the relatively new oxalic acid treatment, which would be done in late summer when the honey supers have been removed.
So there are new packages of bees to order, and preparations to be made, including evaluating the equipment, scraping the boxes and frames, and freezing the drawn comb. The new bees arriving on April 13th will benefit from last year’s comb, and it will give them a huge leg up as they get started.
The hives that did make it – well, that’s a delightful thing to experience on an early Spring day. Watch them flying, watch them coming in with full pollen sacs from skunkweed and witch hazel and garlic. We keep feeding them, and hoping that their numbers will build up as the days lengthen. It’s the promise of a new season, and the hope of honey days in the not-too-distant future.