Whew, we have had some cold weather this Winter. Single digits along with a few below zero temps. On each occasional warm day (42-48F) I take a peek under the top cover to check on the clusters and stores. I have replenished the fondant and will again at the next opportunity.
However we are beginning to experience the transition from Winter to the beginnings of Spring. Three days ago it was 63F and the bees took full advantage finding sweet sources from the start of the maple sap run and the ever so small snowdrops.
The GDD (Growing Degree Days) climbed to 15 with this warm day earlier in the week but is now 27 reflecting the slow but steady warming.
I haven’t had my bees for a complete year just yet. I still have two weeks to go. So Spring presented a whole new set of experiences. I went from being an enamored newbie beekeeper; happily feeding my bees, treating for mites and doing the Winter prep to a full fledged beekeeper in the speed of light.
The mindset of the bee colony coming out of survival mode in Winter is reproduction. This Spring, the weather became extremely warm at the onset and really flipped the switch to trigger the reproduction cycle which in bees is manifested in swarming.
The residing queen will lay eggs in queen cups. They develop into cells made on the face of the comb or toward the bottom of frames and as they mature resemble a vertical hanging peanut. Therefore upon inspection of a hive this is an observable sign the hive will begin making preparations to swarm. Just prior to the new queen emerging the resident queen will deliberately leave the hive with approximately half of the hive population.
My bees made it through Winter successfully in a robust way. So the combination of a large crowded population of bees in the hive and the warm weather along with an abundance of pollen and nectar provided the optimum conditions for swarming. I was fully aware of these conditions and as a beekeeper began to apply the management portion of beekeeping. This is known as splitting the hive. It is a controlled swarm by the beekeeper.
I successfully split one hive into a deep and a nuc. The other two hives were on schedule to have the same procedure done to them. But the gals had their own time table. I had one hive decide to do a dramatic swarm. I was out talking with the neighbor and I could hear the familiar buzzing sound. I passed it off as flies sunning themselves on the side of one of the outbuildings. When the conversation ended I headed toward the apiary and that’s when I went into frantic mode. I was literally standing in the midst of a full on swarm. Thousands of bees were swirling around the entire apiary. Thankfully they landed on an old fence post ten feet from the bee yard on the apiary side of the creek. I had already placed empty woodenware in the yard. I was pretty hyped as I had never retrieved a swarm before. But my desire to get my bees back took over and my focus kicked in. I successfully got the bees in a single deep hive and transported them away from the bee yard. Whew!
Spring is an exciting season as all of God’s creation awakens with life once again. Regeneration and bountiful hope of an abundant harvest. These amazing bees have taught me so much allowing me thankfully to become a better beekeeper.