Like most of the country, we've been in the dreary pits of winter lately. The weather here has been frigid. We've already had two significant episodes of wintry precipitation with another on the way next week. This is the time when I look out the kitchen window and wish that I could suit up, fire up the smoker, and head for the hives. Soon enough I suppose. Spring will be here before you know it.
But out of the cold weather we've had lately, a warm day finally emerged last week. As the sun was shining bright, the temperature reached into the 50s, and the bees emerged from their hives. Here you can see the girls from the yellow hive as they decided to venture out and enjoy the warmth. This is the biggest colony I have, and even in winter their numbers are high. Click on any of the pictures to see the larger version.
Not to be outdone, the girls in the lime green hive came out to bask in the sun. I've worried more about this hive than the others, and I've had my doubts about their survival. But out of all three colonies, this one had more bees hanging around outside the entrance. Even though this is a Carniolan breed which is generally darker in color, you can see some lighter, yellow bees in the foreground. Those are younger bees which indicates to me that the queen has been laying. In all probability, this is probably the first time they have ever been outside the hive.
I wanted to check and see if the bees were taking the bee candy I made over the holidays. And as you can see, they are. While the lime green hive had adequate stores, the orange and yellow hives seemed to be rather low. So I made bee candy to help get all three colonies through the winter. After all, its not the temperature that kills bees in winter...many times they starve to death. In my opinion, the bee candy patties I made are much better than using the "mountain camp" method of feeding. That's because it doesn't leave a big, gummy mess like the mountain camp method does. Plus the candy patties are fairly easy to make. I made enough to feed the bees through this winter, so once they finish these patties, I have more in storage.
The bees have eaten a hole in the side of this bee candy patty. Another thing that makes this method unique is that the natural heat from the cluster inside the hive had risen and softened the patty. That made it easier for the bees to take it apart and consume it. This is just one of several patties that the bees had made holes in. The other patties are the ones I had broken in half and they had a jagged edge for the bees to start working on.
A part of the warm weather ritual for the bees includes housekeeping. That also includes removing dead bees from the hive. Bees are extremely hygienic and will not tolerate trash and dead bees to clutter their house. Here you can see some dead bees lying on the stand in front of the entrance. I watched the bees as they would drag some of the dead ones outside, then dump them over the front.
A housekeeping bee rests on a leaf after she dumped her dead sister on the ground. While many bees will just dump the dead ones outside the hive entrance, some will actually pick the dead bee up, fly away from the hive, then dump them. After that manuever, she'll fly back to the hive to begin the task all over again. The living bee is on the leaf, and just behind her (in the white circle) is her dead sister.
Overall I was very pleased and excited to see that my three colonies were so active on a warm day. While there is very little I can do with my bees at this point, I know that this is the time to start getting prepared for the spring. Before you know it, it will be swarm season, time for splits, starting new colonies, experimenting to see what works and what doesn't, and just enjoy what beekeeping is all about.
Here's hoping that 2011 will be a very successful year for your beekeeping endeavors, and in your personal lives too! I have a feeling that 2011 is going to be a great year for all of us!
Bee happy, fellow beekeepers!