A rough start to 2018

We’ve had a few warm days lately which gave a chance to check on the bees at home and the farm.  When things warm up, the bees come out for a stretch and a much needed bathroom break.  This also allows them to move around in the hive to find food if needed.  At a glance, I knew I had trouble with a few hives, so I decided to open each one up to see what was going on.  When I started opening the hives, I found  many that were doing ok, but getting low on food.  The long cold spells forced them to eat more than usual, a dangerous situation at this time of year.  Warm weather lets them get out, but if nothing’s flowering yet they’re just wasting energy looking.  I knew they’d be in trouble as they were, so I took action.

Any hives that were alive got a block of sugar.  This is emergency food.  The bees don’t care to eat it if they have honey available, but if they go through it all the sugar will keep them alive until the spring blooms show up.  The bees can’t store sugar like this, so it’s purely eaten on an as-needed basis, the less the better.  Once the spring blooms start, we’ll remove what’s left, or the bees will clear it as trash.

Unfortunately, I also found more hives dead than I expected.  Many of them were low on food but not out.  It looks like in all these cases they got in a position where they couldn’t reach their food due to the extended cold.  This was not what I wanted to find at all, especially considering the winter’s not yet finished.  We had a number of Nucs (Nucleus, small starter hives), most of which died.  At home we have standard hives, and at the farm we use 2-way pallets (two hives each).  We haven’t lost half of those yet, but closer than we should be by this time.

Beekeepers lose bees every winter.  This is nothing new.  I would feel better if I knew I wouldn’t lose any more this season but all I can do now is wait and hope for an early spring!  The bees will keep doing what they’ve always done, and the strong will survive.  We’ll spend our spring rebuilding from what’s left.

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