This article failed to post in October, 2020 – This is the date that this event occured.
Yup,….did you know that at the Summer Solstice, the bees start getting read for winter. They sense the shortening days and work toward increasing the bee population in the hive. Bees that emerge in Fall and late Fall are the Winter Bees.
These Bees will live longer than the Spring & Summer Bees. Of course, they are not foraging as the warm weather bees are. A Spring/Summer Bee only lives 4-6 weeks. The Winter Bees will live 8 or more weeks. Again, because they are not foraging as much.
Also, the Queen usually stops laying eggs during the colder weather. If she does keep laying, she can only lay an amount that the bees in the hive can cover and keep warm. So you will usually see a small patch of brood at the middle of the cluster area here in North Carolina.
I received a call about a swarm recently. It had been there about 3 days. The owner of the property said that they were all hanging on a soy bean plant.
Bees usually do not swarm this late, unless they absconded or a beekeeper wasn’t paying attention. Either way, some bees needed rescuing and I was willing to go get them.
When I arrived at the location of the swarm, I followed the owner to where the bees were. Sure enough, they were all clustered, clinging to a soy bean plant. There was comb on the ground next to where the bees were. All I can come up for a story here, is that the bees swarmed. For whatever reason, the bees started to draw comb up in a pecan tree. When we had the recent rain and winds, it blew the bees and comb out of the tree and that is where they landed. I pulled up the soy bean plant and placed in on top of the frames. They were very easy to entice into the box that I had prepared with some drawn comb.
It took about a New York second for those bees to call that box home. As I was situating the box for the night, I found another little pile of bees on the ground. I scooped them up and put them in the box with the others. After a few minutes, I was able to pull the soy bean plant off of the frames and close the box up. I would leave them there for the night. The stragglers outside the box would soon find they way in the box, because it was going to get in the 40’s that night.
A couple of days later I strapped and retrieved the hive at dusk when all the foragers were home. Checking in the hive today, I found a nice big fat queen. I knew they had one. They were gentle as ever.
Bees will swarm this late. If they make it through the winter is another question. I will feed them up with sugar syrup and possible some old honey that I have in a bucket. Hopefully there is enough time for the queen to lay enough winter bees.
Time will tell!!!