I made it through another winter- 2023. This one was not so bad. I have learned to embrace winter and if truth be known, summer is now my least favorite season. By summer, I mean those hot days of July, August and sometimes into September. My two favorite seasons are Spring and Fall.
Winter gives you a chance to access the bare bones of the landscape. I have also reclaimed parts of my woods and am now going about to introduce understory trees that my Bees can benefit from.
The Bees fared very well and I think I might have lost one hive. That is something that a beekeeper always does when the weather starts turning warm again……access the losses!! I pray that the losses become less and less as bees teach us beekeepers just how it is done – WITHOUT CHEMICALS!!!!
I have not fully opened my hives yet. It seems that on nice sunny days I have commitments and on days off…it rains. I will be going into them very soon. Just to take a peak, access the needs and probably add another deep hive box.
I am not against letting some swarm. That is actually how I increased my apiary from 3 to 8 hives and that was giving away 3 swarms as I did not have the time nor the energy to catch them. I just will try not to let it get so intense.
Right on cue (Q) the Red Maples started to bloom early February along with Dead Nettle, Hen Bit, Helebore and Dandelion. Now, in later February, I am seeing Grape Hyacinth, Mahonia and Camellia.
These all provide a thin nectar that is perfect for raising brood and increasing the population of the hive.
Next will be Red Bud trees. It also produces a thin nectar just perfect for the bees. This is a last build up time before the Grand Finale of the nectar flow …….Tulip Poplar!!!!
Some beekeepers insist that they must feed the bees in the early spring. Some place sugar syrup in feeders on the hive and some “open feed” Both of these methods (IMHO) are unnecessary.
(DISCLOSURE: the bees must have enough food to get them through the cold months, so feeding in Fall is the more optimum choice)
Like I said above, nature provides that perfect nectar for the bees to build up in spring. There is no processing necsessary. The bees bring it in and it a perfect blend to feed all the brood and for workers to consume.
Many of us learned early on that it does no good to feed sugar syrup in the Fall after the temps are consistantly in the 50’s during the day. We learned that it is too cold for the bees to convert and reduce the water content of that syrup, so it is best to feed your bees in the warmer temperature in September & October (sometimes November in a warm North Carolina fall)
So feeding the bees sugar syrup in the spring before the temps consistantly get above and stay above the 50’s, is a lesson in futility. The only thing that the bees can do with this sugar syrup in colder temps is to consume it or build comb. (so feed if you want to build comb)
A new beekeeper that I mentor did this very thing, listening to someone say that they should put out a “community feeder” for the bees.
This is what the bees did with that sugar syrup!! They built drone comb/brood. So in essence, it created more work for the beekeeper in having to go into the hive and clean it out. In this case, I instructed the beekeeper to just replace the inner cover on the hive, allow this one to get robbed out by the bees and save the wax for some lip balm.
The Bees Teach us the Lessons that we need to learn!! We just need to use common sense and listen to them!!!
One more thing that you might see at this time of year is Drone brood stuck every which way that the bees can build it. If you see this in a hive, do not be alarmed. It is just Drone brood that the bees are making in preparation for swarm season.
In early Spring, in preparation for swarming season, the bees put drone cells everywhere. Not so much on the frames. That is prime space for worker brood, but on the top of frames, bottom of the frame, in between boxes and any space that is available to them.
Spring is coming FAST & FURIOUS!! Having a mentor to walk you through the crazy time of spring is very beneficial for the beekeeper and the bees.
Until next Month,