Posted by: Pam B. Newberry | March 5, 2012

February and March are Hard Months for Bees

Hello Everyone…

Brrrr! It is cold out there!

The weather these last few weeks has definitely been bizarre here in the states. This past weekend the tornadoes wrecked havoc and mayhem all around us. We were definitely blessed that the path of the tornadoes dissolved away just about the time they were to arrive in our little part of the world. As they say around here,”We missed a bullet, for sure!”

So, how are the bees, I bet you are wondering.

Take a look for yourself! The following pictures were taken February 28 on a nice warm day. Pollen is popping out on sugar maples and willow trees and loads of spring bulbs. Look closely at the bees and you’ll notice their little hind legs are just full of the “good stuff.” And, with the warm temperatures, the little ladies were having great fun flying in and out with such speed. To paraphrase Chef Emeril Lagasse, I wish these pictures had ‘hear-a-sound’ as the buzz of the hives was something to hear.

Figure 1: Bees are coming out of the hive quickly to take cleansing flights and to forage for food.

Figure 2: Hive 3 - Bees are flying in and out as fast as they can!

Figure 3: Notice the blurred bee flying to the hive? See how its hind legs are heavy with pollen.

Figure 4: Oh, look at the "yellow gold" the bees have found!

Figure 5: Pollen on My Knees -- see related blog posted earlier

Figure 6: Notice the two bees where the arrow points; it appears they may be fighting or the bee on its back has died and it is being removed from the hive. Notice the pollen on the legs of the other bees.

Okay, now, what do you think? Hobbit King and I believe our little ladies are doing just fine. We took these pictures and showed them to our Bee Mentor and he agreed. We learned that if we keep watching over them these next few weeks and we prepare to provide them a little extra food, if the weather turns bad, like it has these last few days, the hives will continue to do well.

Why would you think it would be hard on the bees during this time of year when some plants are beginning to bud out and we are about to have Spring? It is because the hives have begun to produce their young. The Queen began laying eggs most likely back near the end of January or early February. It takes about 21 days for new ones to emerge.

This is critical for the survival of the hive as the “winter” bees are about spent. They have worked all winter to keep the hive warm and to protect the brood the Queen laid prior to winter. Those bees are tired and are about ready to give up their last breath of life. That is why when it snows during this time of year, you will often find lots of dead bees at the base of the hives. The hive is beginning its new cycle. The older bees are making way for the young.

A hive is most healthy when its life cycle provides a steady replacement of young to old without producing too many of either too fast. With the influx of new bees, rearing of brood, and the dying off of older bees, the honey stores that was prepared last fall will be eaten quickly. The more mature bees will need to forage for large quantities of pollen in order to make the “bee bread” for the brood as well as feed the emerging new bees, who will be hungry and ready to work.

It is amazing that all of this activity is happening while the world around the honey bee is full of cold winds, blistering rains and snows, and in some areas damaging and killing storms.

The honey bee continues to marvel Hobbit King and I. Each time we visit the hives we are so excited to see what may happen with them next.

Recently, we were also inspired while listening to Gunther Hauk, founder of the Spikenard Farm and Honeybee Sanctuary, during a recent Mountain Empire Beekeepers Association (MEBA) meeting. Gunther shared a few of his experiences, his philosophies, and his dream for all who want to help the honey bee. If you have not visited his website, I encourage you to do so.

If you happen to raise bees, I also encourage you to purchase his “Bee Tea.” You can also do as I am planning to do, and that is grow the flowers and herbs he recommends on his website and make your own “bee tea!” This bee tea is for the BEES! Gunther told us how he developed this mix to feed his bees. He said that when you mix it with some of their honey, it provides them with good, healthy, food that will help them build a strong hive. Hobbit King and I plan on trying it out this spring.

This week Hobbit King and I will begin building the next set of frames for the hives. We will need to prepare a second super each hive for the bees to grow into, store their honey, and then we will see how well we do. With any luck, we’ll be harvesting some honey for us to try in early summer. Keep your fingers crossed for us and check back and see how we are doing. Now that the break is over for us beekeepers, the plan is to post more news more often.

Honeybee Hives at Hobbit's Bend Farm

Honey Cheers to you and yours,
Hobbit Queen

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