Here lies my apiary in a wood. The hives resemble headstones now that the bees have abandoned them.
This grove of white oaks, dogwood, magnolia and holly in Como, Mississippi was an apiary once before in the 1970’s. Then it was my favorite, in the shade of a line of cedars and next to the sheep shed.
This spring I started these bees from four nucs. Nucs are a few frames with a laying queen; they give you a little head start compared to package bees, which can’t begin laying until after they are released from the shipping container.
But, what happened to my apiary over the summer? I know that at least one of the hives swarmed because it was witnessed flying by the silo that stores cotton seed. The remaining bees aren’t strong enough to last the winter. Was it beetles that came in with the nucs, or the mysterious colony collapse disorder? Twenty-first century beekeeping is more difficult than it was in the 70’s, that is certain.
However, we beekeepers must carry on because there are so few wild hives. In the 1980’s when the girls were small, I would spend evenings upstairs with the windows open and bees coming in the screens attracted by our reading light. We would have to be quick with Peter Rabbit or James and the Giant Peach to avoid the frantic buzzing and possible sting. Upstairs is quiet now. The children are in Charlottesville, Concord and Brooklyn. The grove is crunchy with falling leaves and winter coming, but I will look forward to new swarms in the spring.