Wow, what a week for honey bees! The weather has been cold, windy, cloudy, and wet. All bad for flowers and honey bees. Two weeks ago we did splits of our hives to keep them from swarming - check out our blog from a few weeks ago about honey bee swarms - and then the temperature tanked to record lows. We definitely lost some brood and our newly emerged queens may not have survived. We'll know in about two weeks how many of our new queens had a chance to mate - which they only do once in their lives.
But unseasonable weather wasn't the only bad news we heard for the bees. The murder hornet has made its way to the Pacific Northwest. We're still learning about this critter too, but here's what we have gleaned so far. It's one big bug! They measure about the size of an adult's thumb. In contrast, a honey bee is only about as big as my fingernail. They have a face that looks like it came from a comic book about killer bugs. It enters beehives and decapitates the adult bees and devours the larvae. A couple of murder hornets can destroy a colony of bees in a matter of hours. The murder hornet queen makes a nest in the ground in April in the Pacific Northwest, so they are working on traps to catch the queens in the ground in Washington State. They are also making sock-type traps to capture the hornets that emerge through the season. They are at their most active in the fall, so capturing them early is important. So far there have been 4 reported sightings of the murder hornets in the U.S. as of today. However, the prediction is that when the millions of hives that are transported to California next year for Almond pollination return to their states of origin, they will likely be spreading the hornets across the country. (That's not a slam against Almond pollination because that is key to honeybee survival as well - although it comes with pitfalls).
Historic low temperatures and murder hornets, what a week, right? Wait, wait, there's more. There is a paralysis virus affecting honey bees. Yep, as if they aren't struggling enough to survive with mites, insecticides, the devastation of wildflowers through the use of herbicides, unseasonable cold, and murder hornets arriving on U.S. shores, there is a virus that paralyzes the bees. The affected bees can't fly, and they appear greasy - which apparently makes it difficult for the undertaker bees to remove them from the entrance of the hive when they die, which spreads the virus to the other bees entering and exiting the hive. (You didn't know there were undertaker bees? Yep, they take the dead and diseased bees out of the hive to protect the overall health of the colony). While the virus has been around for a while, it appears to be mutating and may become a significant concern in the future. For now, few bees are affected and hives normally recover on their own or with only moderate intervention on the part of beekeepers like us who add brood to the hive from a healthy hive to increase the number of healthy bees in the hive. We haven't had this problem at Bee Great, but we are certainly being vigilant and looking out for the classic "k-shaped" appearance of the wings of diseased bees.
Well, that's enough bad news for one blog post. So, what's the good news you may be asking? The good news is that through your support of our local, family-owned business we are doing everything we can to continue to help keep the honeybee alive in Northeast Indiana! So, click that Shop Our Products at the top of this page and do your part to help save the honey bee and at the same time reward yourself with a sweet honey treat or a soothing beeswax skincare product from our artisan collection of hand-made soaps, salves, and balms.
Bee Great Today Indiana!
The Mullins Family