We had three weeks of unusually cold temperatures and then three weeks of unusually warm temperatures. These spurts of strange weather are very hard on honeybees. They’ve been out swarming the maple trees because they too like this warm weather and really swarming my birdfeeders. The last three or four years we have lost our honeybees due to this very weather oddity or so we think.
Apparently when the weather warms like it did last week, in the 60’s, the bees think spring is here and they eat up their winter stores and start raising young bees. Then the cold returns and they don’t have enough food to stay alive, much less raise young. They all die.
We don’t like to mess with Mother Nature and try not to interfere with any animals’ normal lifetime. Some people feed their bees honey and it is the best fuel for them. Depending on how long the winter is, a beehive will need about 30 pounds of honey to make it to spring. When we take honey for ourselves. usually in June to mid-July, we try to make sure there is still plenty of pollen plants in the area for them to refill their hive. We leave another hive on top of the main hive full of frames for them to fill for winter stores. You can’t take all the honey from your bees because they need food to survive cold winter months when they’re confined inside their beehive. We place “supers” on top of the two main hives, which are shorter in height than the main hive. The honeys made in these boxes is what we take for ourselves and leave a few frames in them just in case the bees need them in the winter/spring.
Honeybees do not hibernate during winter. They remain active and shelter inside their hive, huddling together to keep warm and protect the queen. As winter begins, brood rearing ceases and the queen stops laying eggs. The hive depends on the overwintering of the queen.
Honeybees don’t just collect nectar and pollen. They also gather resin and sap from trees and plants which bees turn into bee glue, this sticky stuff is made by combining plant resin with saliva and beeswax. Bees use this bee glue in particular for sealing up any unwanted gaps in a hive and in preparation for winter honeybees will close up any cracks to prevent any cold draughts. We try to locate our hive in a location where the low winter sun will be able to warm the front of the hive during the day, we have a bee house that protects them from the north and west winds of winter. It’s at least 20 inches off the ground which helps protect them from predators such as skunks and coons that will raid and destroy the bees.
Some people make/buy feed for their bees to make sure they make it during the winter months. The one we hear about more than any other is a syrup of 2:1 sugar water. Our son uses winter patties and candy boards, I believe. Shawn is following in his granddad’s footsteps and his dad’s, who are/were beekeepers.