The Italian bees have gone. They were clustering on the bottom of their screened bottom board early yesterday morning when I went to tend the hens, and gone by lunchtime. The queen had made her way out of her cage and they had even started to build some comb. But there were only a few confused and sad looking bees wandering helplessly around the inside of the hive when I checked on them. Of course I'm disappointed that they chose to leave. But I wish them well in the world and hope they make it out there. I attended the local beekeepers' meeting last night, told my sad tale, and begged for any leads on a replacement package. The experienced beekeepers found my story very odd, and packages are in very short supply. I may have to try to catch a swarm if I want two colonies, or settle for just one.
On a more positive note, the Russians are doing great. They have a significant start on their comb building, and very little burr comb (that's "non-regulation" comb - comb built where a beekeeper doesn't want it). It looks like Izhevsk will be a strong colony.
Another positive note is that I got a bunch of ramps for transplanting. The few I put in two years ago are still alive, but their numbers don't seem to have changed at all, so I still don't feel I can harvest any. I'm going to put these new ramps in several locations and see where they do best. If I manage to make them happy enough to propagate well, ramps could help bridge the garlic gap, which we're facing right now. No more fully formed garlic from the garden until late June at the earliest.