The number of monarch butterflies and their more exotic cousins also seemed to be sharply down. The only bumper crop this year was a late-summer invasion of thousands of ravenous grasshoppers eating everything in sight.
Three years ago we harvested three five-gallon buckets of honey; last year two and this year only three-quarters of one bucket, or three gallons. That's pretty sad.
|Much mess about very little honey.|
About a month ago, Félix and Stew checked the three hives and were alarmed to find one full, one half-full and the third completely dead. In the spring they had introduced new queens to two of the hives and one of those turned up completely empty.
Ours being a stand-alone and fairly primitive operation, it's going to be tough to determine what's caused the downturn.
We don't have universities nearby with agricultural extension services buzzing with experts as they do in the States, but there are commercial honey operations around here and maybe they'll know.
The only source of information that comes to mind now is the supplier of honey paraphernalia in Morelia, Michoacán, so we need to get Félix to call them to get the information chain going.
As to what happened to the butterflies, that's anyone's guess. Maybe nothing except our anecdotal reports.
I had read some alarmist articles from the U.S. that blamed a sharp decline in honey production and bee populations on the use some fertilizers containing nicotinic acid. The European Union had banned the use of that fertilizer.
Immediately surrounding our ranch the level of agricultural sophistication or the use of any type of chemicals has to be close to zilch. We are talking subsistence farming at its worst.
But farther afield, maybe five miles or more from here there are vast irrigated fields of all sorts of leaf vegetables, and caravans of trucks hauling them to the U.S. So maybe some bad stuff could be blowing our way and knocking out our bees.
There's not much to be done until the spring, particularly the introduction of new queens to our hives, but to start asking questions. For now all we can do is hoard the new honey for ourselves and maybe close friends—but only if they beg.