that is always the question in the spring with beekeeping. Will the bees make it through the winter? Cold is not usually the problem but starvation, moisture, and disease are.
Last fall our bees benefited from all the goldenrod and New England aster we have around them and harvested lots of pollen well into the fall. But I was still concerned that they would have enough stores to take them through the winter. It was a late, wet start to the summer and we had them start from scratch when we switched them from foundation to foundationless frames. I put a peaked roof on the hive so that the snow would not build up too much. I put a strip of vapour barrier along the peak to keep water from leaking in. Then I began to wonder if that was such a good idea. Bees in a cluster produce condensation when they breath. If that moisture doesn’t escape, it can kill them. Perhaps that strip of vapour barrier along the peak of the hive would stop the moisture from escaping?
And the first indications were not good.
It’s not unusual to find dead bees on the snow. They go on cleansing flights and sometimes don’t survive. The carpet of dead bees in the bottom of the hive, though, was a shock. Had they starved? Had they succumbed to one or more of the many diseases that bees have to deal with? Had they frozen because there was too much moisture in the hive? It was very upsetting to think that I might have killed the bees because of my ignorance.
But then a week later with more warm weather……………….
And I saw a couple of bees with pollen sacs full. It’s too early for pussy willows or aspen so someone must have crocuses in flower. And today, with temperatures reaching 19˚C, they were doing a lot of foraging and returning with bright yellow pollen. Wherever I walked in the garden, I was met with inquisitive bees trying to figure out if I was a pollen source.
So the bees have survived the winter but there is still a risk of starvation. Although the 14-day forecast calls for daily highs between 9 and 19 and lows between 3 an 11, it’s still very early and it’s likely that they don’t have much left in the way of winter stores.
Nonetheless, I’m a lot happier than I was a week ago.