The robbers did lose interest in a few days but by then our confined bees had expired. A look inside the hive revealed only a few yellow jackets still moving around. And the invaders had been thorough. The comb is entirely devoid of honey or brood, just empty wax cells.

We have since allowed the events of life to distract us and have been ignoring the tomb on the hill. Before winter we ought to tend to it. Clean out the dead. Perhaps remove the wax. Seal the hive.

And so we approach the cold season not with fretful hopes of a huddled colony enduring until the warmth returns but with the certitude of silent emptiness. Yet during this time we will build a second hive, perhaps a third, to have a better prospect of bees for next year.