Bees Get a Warm Day for Christmas

Saturday, December 21, 2013

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Hives after a recent snowfall.

My Christmas present came a few days early this year.  A sunny 60 degree day revealed 3 active hives.  I couldn’t be more excited and more grateful after a month and a half of cold and snow and wet, which for a beekeeper equates to waiting and not knowing.

Yesterday morning, Green Hive 1 and Yellow Hive 2 were busy with bees flying in and out, taking their much needed cleansing flights.  Yes, bees have to relieve themselves too or disentery could set in – one of many potential problems faced by the bees during the winter, along with excessive moisture, mites and pests, starvation and disease.  The bees can actually take quite a bit of cold, so freezing is not usually a problem.  Heck, bees are commonly kept all the way up through Canada.  If they can take those temps, then 30 degrees is nothing.

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A few weeks later, 60 degrees and sunny and the bees are alive and well!

Later that afternoon, Blue Hive 3 had joined the activity.   Everyone was out and about, cleaning house and enjoying the sunshine.  I opened the tops to add more food. Who knows when I’ll get a chance to peek in again.  The girls were buzzing around me a little, but they were surprisingly docile, and many were up top enjoying the candy.  I piled up their food stores and put them away til our next 60 degree day.

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Adding food to help them through the coming months. This photos actually shows what not to do. Only cover 1/4-1/3 of the frames on the side that first receives the morning sun. Too much coverage impedes air flow and can cause moisture to be retained in the hive.

We still have a long way to go.  January and February could be brutal, and their numbers have dwindled – typical for winter when they’re focusing on staying warm rather than reproducing.  Remember, the life of a worker bee is only about 21 days.  The closer we get to spring, the more the bees will begin eating like crazy.  This is often when the starvation sets in.  The trick is to always stay 5 steps ahead.  Now I know they’ll survive our cold, that their stores are good.  I didn’t realize how much I had missed them.  A wonderful gift indeed – a day of validation that my bees are still alive and that I must be doing something right.  Now I sit back and wait some more, and continue to hope.

Best wishes to everyone!  May your holidays bee merry and bright!  And may you and your bees bee healthy and happy in 2014!

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2 thoughts on “Bees Get a Warm Day for Christmas

  1. Hey Paula! Your hives look beautiful in the snow! I really like the windbreakers your husband fabricated for the girls. My hive stands are larger, holding up to three hives, so I would have to come up with a different design. But I am inspired.

    Glad to hear the girls are doing so well. By the way, I just wanted to mention, with respect to your comment on the short lifespan of the girls that they live longer in the winter. Some literature I’ve read suggests the longer lifespan may be do to the fact that they stay in the hive much of the time. Other literature suggests that there are actually genetic differences in the workers laid by the queen in the fall, leading up to the winter, which leads to the longer lifespan. Presumably, when the queen resumes laying eggs after the winter solstice, the new spring bees would have the “normal” genetics for the shorter lifespan.

    • Hi Ed. The wind breakers seem to bee working so far. They were worth the effort. I’m never too confident though. They’re thrown us too many curve balls this past summer. Best of luck to you and your girls and thank you for the nice comment.

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