BEEKEEPING IN THE NORTHEAST - An account of my beekeeping, not a treatise of expertise, but for friends & family who wish to keep bees vicariously through me, and for the occasional apiarist passer-by.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Royal Nursery

Ah... a sunny day in winter...
Wonder what the bees are up to?
Here in the Northeast we get used to 20F & 30F degree daytime temps in winter and when it warms up to 50 we think it's an opportunity to inspect the hives; but remember: most breeds of bees are too chilled to fly until temps reach 57F! Some will venture out on a void flight at 47F, but if there is brood to keep warm, you often won't see them flying even on a warm up day.

A few vital bits of knowledge to have in late winter-early spring:
  • Her Majesty usually resumes laying in February.
  • "Check on your hives"? When checking on your hives in winter-early spring, no matter how mild it is here in the Northeast, you NEVER break down the hive as you would in a normal inspection.
  • You NEVER unwrap the hive before days are consistently warm or above 50F in the spring. If you didn't wrap this season, don't break apart the propolis the bees have painstakingly put into place to seal off drafts and cold. The cold renders the propolis too hard to go back together.
  • Despite climate change, Spring still begins on March 20th. In the Northeast, that often happens sometime in May.
  • You DO NOT need to know if your bees are dead or alive. What possible good could you accomplish breaking up the hive to take a look, especially if they are alive?
  • You DO need to know whether or not your emergency feeding set up is working AND KEEP TABS ON IT.
  • Don't despair if you wish you had read this before you opened your hive. Every bee is willing to give its life for the perpetuation of its species. They really are. They have accommodated humans for thousands of years, teaching the beekeeper during a time in earth's history when other species of insects are becoming extinct at alarming rates. Thanks to their partnership with the beekeeper they have insured their survival and have become distributed throughout the globe as a reward for their sacrifices. You'll get it down. They have faith in you.   (see Nation Geographic Article on Insect Species)
Hopefully your bees aren't dead, just minding the nursery.... you don't need to know yet, just error on the side of them making it and make sure food is on top in case they need it. 

It's tough waiting out the winter. Last year my bees were confined for almost six & a half months and only had about five and a half months of foraging to prepare for that... but, there they were in the spring! Most springs I have found at least one colony dead and in no case did it ever help to know that before it was consistently warm enough during the day to unwrap the hive. Relax, read your books and bee journals. You are engaged in a worthy hobby. Confidence and skill will come, most assuredly, with failure more often than with success. Don't give up.

1 comment:

Christopher said...

All good stuff! I dread waiting for spring to arrive to know how the colony strength is doing, and have to find other activities to keep myself occupied.