Just when I thought I had a good handle on my beekeeping venture, which I only started this past spring, I found my hives completely infested with Small Hive Beetles. These creepy little pests didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. I had noticed some during one of my weekly/biweekly hive inspections this summer, and knew I had to do something about them. But, looking back, I think I noticed them right before we were taking a trip to the Outer Banks. Then, I didn’t order my beetle traps until we came home four days later. The traps took another week to arrive. Apparently, that is plenty of time for a handful of small hive beetles to conduct quite an orgy, multiply, and destroy the entire hive of a bee colony. I’m sure those of you who are expert beekeepers are wagging your fingers at me and shaking your heads. I know.
Looking for help, I called my mentor, an apiarist with the University of Maryland Agricultural Extension, and asked for his guidance. I also called one of my neighbors, a tall, statuesque blond, who has two more years’ worth of experience than I. Lucky for me, they both agreed to come right away. As Mike the Mentor pulled frame after frame out of my hive boxes and knocked off all the beetles, as well as the surviving bees, my neighbor and I steadily smashed, by hand, as many beetles as we could. Picture the game Whack-a-Mole, but with two ladies crouched over a hive lid beating tiny beetles with metal tools. It was gruesome and barbaric. The worst part was accidentally smashing bees when the beetles hid beneath them just as our instruments of death were coming down. Mike assured me those lost bees were a necessary casualty in order to get the beetle population under control and to save one of my two colonies. It really didn’t make me feel any better.
After about 30 minutes of continuous smashing and crunching, I stood, sweaty and woozy, to help reassemble the one hive that still had a chance for survival. There was still a queen present, brood, eggs, and capped honey, all of which equaled hope. I regretted the destruction I had allowed to happen due to my neglect, the loss of bees due to the violent measures we had to take that day, and the amount of honey I had to give up in order to provide more food for the surviving bees. However, there was an upside to the whole debacle.
Since I now needed to provide frames of capped honey for only one colony, the frames that were remaining from the disassembled hive were mine for extracting. There wasn’t much, but out of six frames that were only partially filled, I got about three pints of my own, delicious, fresh-from-the-hive honey…a sweet reward despite a stupid mistake! That simple gratification is the driving force for me to continue, with extra diligence, to care for my remaining bees and look forward to purchasing a new colony next spring. That, and the idea that our mistakes don’t always lead to total devastation. Sometimes there is something sweet to be gained from making mistakes.