Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Week of Losses

This past weekend I noticed that my hive, that had been very actively working early flowers and bringing in pollen, whet quiet. Four weeks earlier I had switched the boxes bottom to top, a typical spring procedure. At that time there was brood and some honey, but I started to feed them, as they were a bit light. They were working flowers so hard that they barely touched the sugar water, but I added to it the next week anyway, just in case. All seemed well, then, quiet. Inside the hive I fund beautiful pollen, no honey, and just a tiny cluster of now dead bees, too few to stay warm on the cold nights we had last week. There was an open queen cell. Did they get confused in this odd winter/spring and swarm, and the new queen was unable to find drones to mate? Did they starve, despite not going to the food those first few weeks, or were they robbed of their stores as they weakened. I will never know. I have a package of bees on order, and will start a new hive with them in two weeks. What a sad loss, and no spring honey for us!

Even harder is that Hilda, my sweet red hen, is probably dying. Nothing infectious it seems, no sign of respiratory or intestinal problems. She had had a slowly developing, hard knot in her neck for a couple of years, and it has grown in the last few months. An impacted or infected crop? Maybe. Sunday she was scratching and hopping about and eating, Monday evening she was too weak to get up to her coop. She is getting weaker and weaker. I move her in at night and out to a private coop - where she lived with the others when she was a pullet - during the day. Anything else, it seems, would be extending the process of death, not her life. This morning I thought she was gone, but found she had a tiny bit of warmth still in her feet and under her body where she would have brooded eggs. I gently lifted her to a nest of straw in the separate coop, placed fresh chickweed next to her head, in case something about its essence might soothe her, and left her there. I don't know if she will still be alive when I get home today.

Such a sad week.