Let the mystery bees be

White smoke

We don’t know what we’re doing.

We try. We read books, scan websites, talk to beekeepers, use our intuition. We follow all the instructions and still this beekeeping thing remains a beautiful mystery.

Remember in the summer when we introduced Elspeth II? We checked and checked for weeks and there were no eggs. Other beekeeping pals told us to be patient; it can take weeks. At last, at last! We peeked in that hive and saw eggs and capped brood, and wiped our netted brows with relief. There was still time for the colony to build itself up and store enough honey to survive the winter.

On a routine check later, we worried again: no eggs.

A later check: no eggs, no capped brood, lots of honey.

Was the queen dead? Sick? Gone?

As weeks passed, we grew reluctant to open the hive, imagining the dismal state of things that we’d find: the eggless chambers, the dwindling population, the bodies.

Finally, this past weekend we decided it was time to check, just to be sure.

We lifted the cover and there were a few bees, but the hive was awfully quiet. We looked at the top level (the “super” where we had hoped the bees would collect honey for us to gather at some point) and it was empty of comb.

Quiet hive.

But as we dug deeper into the hive, a level or two down, what did we find? Bees, glorious bees, packing the frame with pollen, nectar, and honey, and…glory bee… baby bees!

We didn’t spot the queen. We don’t even know who laid the eggs, Elspeth II or maybe a new queen they raised on their own? We didn’t ask questions. We closed up the hive and walked back to the house quietly smiling.

We don’t know what we’re doing. Thank goodness the bees do.


Honey light


  1. Tammy says:

    That’s exactly how it goes for me. There are a million miles of technical information on beekeeping but I have to keep it simple in order to be able to enjoy it. So I sort of go with what I think Nature would be telling us. And I love the old farmers’ tales about “Swarm in May, worth a bale of hay, swarm in June, worth a silver spoon, swarm in July, let them fly!”

  2. kspring says:

    You capture the light in the photos so beautifully. We raised bees a few summers ago, and it was a mystery to us as well. That summer I kept having dreams of swarms, and in each one feared getting stung, but when the swarm came around me, I found I wasn’t stung, or that the stings didn’t hurt me. It was a magical summer for sure!

    1. Rebecca says:

      Bees are magical beings…. 🙂

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