Hear! Hear! Spring is Near! Persevere!

March 5th, 2010

Another beautiful week, and hopefully everyone back east is getting a little warmer weather too.   A strange few weeks this has been for me… but I can hear again! Hence the cheery title for this one. Somehow I came down with an ear infection in mid-February.  It was one of those “hurts a little” things that became a huge pain in less than a day.  Long story short, it ruptured my eardrum and clogged up the ear for weeks.    Finally this week I can hear much better, the ear is clearing up and most of all… that incessant RINGING is finally going away!   

I never gave much thought to tinitis, or how ringing in the ears could be so distracting, but wow!  It’s almost like that emergency broadcast tone on the radio, playing constantly in one side of your head.   I’ve always protected my hearing, and the thought of having to live all the time with a tone like that constantly would be quite debilitating.  I feel for anyone who suffers from that.   

The Doc said it’s usually from nerve damage from long-term loud noises and there’s not much they can do about it.  People must learn to deal with it over time. The solution?  Just like everything else…   Preventative health care!  Wear ear plugs and such when you use loud machinery, and watch the loud music!  Kids especially these days can really mess up their hearing by playing their music too loud all the time with those ear phones and mp3 players.   I’ve always said that when I’m 80 years old I still want to hear the birds singing in the forest and the the kids telling me stories. Think I’m still on track…


Aside from that I was bummed this week when I faced the fact that my two hives of bees didn’t make it through winter.   I knew something was wrong last month when I should have seen activity on some warmish days.  I had checked on them in December and they seemed okay.  I took a peek in January and I could tell they were weak… it just didn’t look like a strong population in any hive.   

Last September and October were so cool and wet that the bees barely had a chance to gather food.   I fed them like crazy as long as I could, and even wrapped and insulated the hives, but it was simply not enough.    I remember seeing quite a few of the larvae that died in late September being pushed out of the hive.  That indicated they were not able to increase their population fast enough due to lack of food or some other reason.   So finally I went and took apart the hives a couple days ago.

This might look like live bees gathered around the queen or something, but instead it’s a picture of the last stand the bees made for food at some point.  These are all dead…  and aside from a few hundred dead bees on the bottom board, these were all that were left inside one of the hives.    I never noticed a swarm in late summer, but some may have left the hive early.   And there was never any noticeable disease or mites present.   I really think it was just lack of food and the time to build up their population to keep a strong, viable cluster through winter.   Lesson learned for me… start feeding earlier and don’t count on late summer and early fall to help them build up.  

So it’s like starting over…  and a strange feeling.  I didn’t realize how I had become so used to their activity around the place.  I really miss them. Another local beekeeper lost 15 of 25 hives or so for similar reasons, especially the poor autumn weather.   But on a positive note, I should be filling three hives with bees in a little over a month.  With a little luck and a good warm flowering season, they should ramp up and be fairly strong this year.   My education continues… but never fear! We’ll persevere! Okay my title’s a little corny :)


On the insect theme, I found a strange pupal shell on the bottom of one of the hives.  I’d love to have seen what emerged from this one… any ideas? Maybe our favorite entomologist can help :)

Other than that, I need to write a little more often. Thanks for coming around now and then to say hello. I’m not going anywhere even if I do slow down at times, and somehow I think this will continue to be a really interesting year for all of us… in a good way. Stay well!


P.S. Jessica Watson rounded the Cape of Good Hope (Africa) over a week ago and is now continuing from the west across the Indian Ocean east towards Australia. She’s made great progress, yet still has a few months of sailing to go. If you like appetizers, she’s got a “tinned and dried version of nachos” that doesn’t look too bad for being nearly five months at sea!

10 Responses to “Hear! Hear! Spring is Near! Persevere!”

  1. Looks to me like a woolybear caterpillar, which turns into the Isabella Moth (Pyrrharctia isabella) – you can see a good photograph of the adult here. The adult looks rather bland but has a colorful orange abdomen when the wings are spread further apart.

  2. josie

    Loved your title…particularly…this time of year.

  3. Ellen

    I “hear” you, re: hearing! I came down with a massive ear infection on Thanksgiving two years ago, and while we finally got it cleared up by the following June, my hearing hasn’t been the same since. So, I can certainly empathsize. Here’s hoping you continue to heal and hear!

  4. Ed

    If you didn’t see them clumping on the outside of the hive preparing to swarm, I might suspect CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder). That came after my time in the beekeeping business so I’m just guessing but from what I’ve read, hives that get it leave very few bee bodies inside.

    Were there any brood cells? Any honey left?

    Even saying that, on a hard winter like the one we just had, it is not uncommon to loose upwards of 8 to 10% of hives. Maybe you just got hit by the odds this time around.

  5. Vince

    Sorry to read about the Bees.

  6. Out of curiosity, what are the odds of a wild swarm finding one of your empty hives?

    As for the “last stand” photo, you could try to turn that word image into an epic kid’s novel about a hive splitting off and relocating a la Watership Down and make millions.


    P.S. I hate ear infections.

  7. Ted- Thanks; it just seemed so BIG! I saw a few all-black caterpillars last fall that were “spikier” than the wooly bears. But it’s probably a huge genus…
    Josie- Thanks for stopping by! :)
    Ellen- Oh my… that’s awful, I hope yours improves even more. I was wondering about the “hasn’t been the same” part… but hopefully it will be close. Thanks for your comment too!
    Ed- It does make you wonder. I thought about the CCD part, but in looking back I was really counting on a good fall season to help them build up, and probably started feeding too late. But as you said, you never really know. With two hives it’s hard to say.
    Vince- Thanks :)
    Randall- Great question- lots of folks do gain swarms that way. I’ve got new packages coming, but since you mentioned it, I’ll probably set up an additional “bait hive” to catch a stray swarm, or even in mine swarm perhaps. And I like your idea… you’d have to help write it though :)

  8. I love learning about bees through your blog–I hope your ear is all cleared. My sinuses have been killing me the past week, causing an ear ache and if it don’t clear up soon, I’ll have to go to the doc.

  9. Bummer on the bees. We are still only missing 2 hives out of 11 so I call it a success. Even so, I hate to see dead bees…not much worse for me…

  10. I join. I agree with told all above. We can communicate on this theme.

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