Archive for honey bees
Early Spring and cold, wet and windy weather can be a hard time for honey bees this time of year. They need pollen to feed the new larva and nectar for themselves. If their winter stores are used up, and if its too cold or wet out, they don’t get out. Last spring we lost a hive after they ran out of honey and it was too cold for them to forage, so they perished. Last Fall we didn’t take any honey off the hives and they have all seemed to come through the winter strong and buzzing. (As a result, we didn’t get any honey, depending on how much is left in the honey supers, we may get some this spring when it does warm up)
A few of the early flowers we have are crocus, anemone (Anemone blanda), Witch Hazel and Daphne.
Witch Hazels are the first blooms here. We have a few cultivars, the one pictured started blooming here in early February. (It is Hamamelis Japonica- Jelena, Copper Witch Hazel)
Which is way early for bees, but it continued through March and when the bees did get out they were all over it.
The Crocus’ are the next to bloom, the bees seem to really love these things. Sometimes there will be four or five bees in a single flower. They come up just after and sometimes through the snow.
The Anemone are another low growing, early blooming flower like the crocus are started with bulbs planted in the fall. And also like the crocus they spread on their own and make a beautiful early ground cover. Both are also low growing, which when its windy (a lot this time of year) is where the bees tend to fly. One close observation of the pic above you can see the pollen sac on the bees rear legs getting full. Good food for raising baby bees.
Daphne’s are another early flower which the bees seem to like, and the fragrance alone is worth planting these.
Honey bees aren’t the only insects that benefit from these early flowers, whatever natural and local pollinators are around will be happy to find any early pollen. And after a winter , most anyone will be pleased to see and smell these floral wonders.
Liz and I have been keeping bees for 25 years, and we still enjoy it as much now as when we started. Of course its great to harvest the honey and the pollination service they provide would be hard to do with out, but we just like having them around. The last few years have been difficult keeping hives going through the winter, we’ve lost a few. With the varroa mite and more recently colony collapse is taking its toll on many apiaries. We lost a hive (we had three) this last winter, but it was because of our own neglect. With the warm winter we had the bees are more active and as a result they eat more (stored honey), early on we should have fed them (late winter, early spring) but we didn’t and they starved. Our other two hives did and are doing great.
One hive was doing so well it swarmed! Swarming happens when a hive gets so crowded the bees make another queen and leave the hive with the old queen to start another colony, en mass. A truly amazing spectacle to behold, thousands of bees all clustered together around their queen. Luckily I happened on to them in a timely fashion and we were able to capture the swarm in a waiting hive body. This was last week and they seem to be doing well.
We have three hives again, thanks bees!