Ahh winter is coming upon us and we have had a killing frost three night in a row here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Isn't it amazing how we can go from 70 degree weather to freezing in just a couple of days with no warning. No warning, that is an ominous statement, but as beekeepers had we been paying attention to our bees we would have had a notice.
Ahh the hecklers are back, again. I here you back there saying this BLOG was about Spring, yes it is but we have to start somewhere. Just hold your comments until the end and I think you will see my point. Again I ask who let them in here? I gotta remember to lock the door while I am doing this.
The bees did notify us that cold weather was coming by their actions, or inaction should I say. When the weather starts to turn colder their activity levels drop. Yes they are out during the sunny part of the day but, as it cools off earlier and earlier during the afternoon they become home bodies. Just like some humans I know, that is a different topic for a different day. When the bee activity has dropped and the temp is consistently below 50 degrees we should as a rule of thumb stop feeding liquids. I know this is a sticking point (literally in some cases) but if you are top feeding you could have 2:1 syrup all over the inside of a hive. So now we switch fondant or patties. This will help get the bees through the winter. Pollen is not advise during winter months because it supplements the queen into laying brood more than she should during the cold months.
As the winter for us humans is moving along we come to mid February to mid March. Dependent upon where you live this is when the queens start to lay the spring brood for the spring bees. (For all you hecklers that are still in the room SPRING is here) This is when you want to supplement the queen and existing workers as much as possible. You see the workers that are left were the winter bees, heavier, fatter, and not as motivated and the spring and summer bees. Their job was to keep the hive warm, and make sure their fearless leader made it through the winter. The bee will also start cleaning flights on warm days. (Make sure your landing boards are clear of debris and snow) This will look like a swarm but it is not. Also the new bees will do an orientation flight on occasion, and the front of your hive may turn a little black from the cleansing flights. This is normal. They will start spring cleaning of the spring cleaning of the hive as well. That means dead bees will be found on the ground, that is because the bees are cleaning house. Would you want to have to walk over a carcass every time you went out of your house? NO, I didn't think so, so why would it be any different for them?
We think of spring in terms of the temps are warm, and flowers are blooming. We as beekeepers need to start thinking in terms of the bee calendar. We cannot sit back, and wait until we see bees out foraging. We are behind the curve at that point and sometimes you never really catch up. If we wait the bees have already started to collect nectar. How many of you know what is the first flower of Spring? Anyone, anyone? Ill wait till we all look this up. tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. Okay long enough. Everyone will say the dandelion, if you said that you would be wrong. Well here is your answer:
1. Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis). These are the earliest of the spring-blooming bulbs, often poking out above the snow as early as January or February, even in the Northeast and Midwest. Snowdrop flowers have three white petals that hang down like milk drops dripping off the stems
The flowers bloom about eight to 15 weeks after germination at the end of the seedling stage. Individual plants bloom continuously while active, but most profusely in May and June.
So if we are waiting on this we are well behind the bell curve on the nectar flow. I am not saying that there are not early trees that come out sooner but, statistically speaking with research showing us these time frames, we can say that if we wait for the dandelion we are behind the curve. These little creatures are far smarter than some give credit for.
Beekeepers need to be on their toes so that we are ready when the bees are ready. As in the picture above woodenware and other hive materials is an important part of beekeeping. Keep you hives maintained and always in good repair. Even if it means that you have to take apart a hive and put in a new box from an over wintered hive body that has separated at the joints or has gone into the end of its serviceable life. Just remember the better we care for our bees houses the more they don't have too and they can focus on their task at hand. Making more bees, making that tasty golden honey, and drawing out comb.
In the end it is up to us to keep our bee safe from predictors, pests, and making sure that beekeepers all around are working together to help the bee population thrive and make a great comeback.
GIFT CARDS ARE AVAILABLE ON THE WEB SITE!!!!!!
Bill the Bee Man until next time!!