Blizzard and the Bees

Last week, Diana and I spent a wonderful week in Cancun, Mexico soaking up the warmth and the sun, swimming in a cenote and visiting Mayan ruins.  The day before we got back, a snowstorm dropped 8 inches at home, but by the time we got in to Denver, the snow was melted off our car and the temperatures were in the 40’s.

Dinner at Cenacolo Mare, Cancun

Dinner at Cenacolo Mare, Cancun

By Monday, it was in the 70’s,  the bees were out happily collecting pollen, and on Tuesday, I was sitting outside having lunch with friends.  Snow was forecast for Tuesday night, into Wednesday. The weather models were forecasting only a couple of inches at my house, but it looked like the plains east of Greeley would get well over a foot.  Wednesday morning, we got a call from the school district that school was closed.  I couldn’t believe that since there were only a few inches on the ground by 5am.  NOAA closed also, so I had the day off.  By 9 am, we had at least a foot and the winds were howling and by the time it was over we had 18 inches on the ground.  Denver International Airport closed for the first time in 10 years.  I guess they made the right call.  Seems like the storm moved more to the west than the models were originally predicting.

The meteorologists don't always get it right.

The meteorologists don’t always get it right.

Before I left for Cancun, I checked on my bees to see how they were progressing since I want to make a split this spring.  Spring weather in the Rockies can be pretty variable and it’s tough on the bees.  They can be going along happily bringing in pollen and nectar and then there can be a cold snap that keeps them cooped up or snow that buries their forage.  There are many times that new (and old) beekeepers think they have a strong hive coming out of winter, which then starves because they don’t have enough stores to get them through the cold snaps.  I gave my hive a couple of extra bars of honey before I left, so I’m hoping they are going to be okay until I can get a nice day to check on them again.

I also need to see if the queen has laid any drones which is a sign that they will start thinking about swarming and that it’s time to make a split.  The queens need to have drones to mate with, so the presence of drone brood means that other hives in the area probably also have drones hatching.  A queen will not mate with her offspring so you need males from other hives for that.

This storm was hard on the trees which were just starting to leaf out and the arborists are going to be pretty busy the next few weeks. The snow was very heavy and wet, sticking to the branches and loading them to the point of breaking.  I lost a branch off one of my apple trees, and if I hadn’t gone out during the height of the storm and knocked snow off it, the little linden tree I planted last year would probably have lost some branches.

Poor little linden tree drowing in snow

Poor little linden tree drowning in snow

Broken branch on apple tree

Broken branch on apple tree

Apple limb on the ground

Apple limb on the ground

The nice thing about spring storms in the Rockies is that just as quickly as they arrive, they usually just as quickly depart and we get a warm up before the next storm (which should be here in a couple of days).  This morning started off with ice fog, but once that cleared, it showed a world covered in a blanket of white with bright sunshine and clear blue skies.

Bee yard after the blizzard

Bee yard after the blizzard

A couple of dead bees at the entrance

A couple of dead bees at the entrance

Rime on the honeysuckle

Rime on the honeysuckle

17 degrees!

17 degrees!

Poor bee who tried to fly away

Poor bee who tried to fly away

Honeysuckle, Buddha and the bees

Honeysuckle, Buddha and the bees

If it makes it up to 50 today, the bees will fly out for evacuation flights and to find forage.  Unfortunately, the latter is covered in snow.  Given that there is so much snow, I’m not sure it will get all that warm, but the sunshine should help heat the hive a bit and the snow on the roof provides some nice insulation.  It’ll be nice day for them to stay inside and feast on their honey stores.  Once we get through this cold spell (and more snow),  the moisture from the melting snow should really green things up.  Hopefully, I can take a peek in the hive before too long to see how they are doing and plan my split!

 

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One Response to Blizzard and the Bees

  1. Julie says:

    Kept seeing your photos of Mexico, and I was sure you and Diana were going to abscond!

    That’s a lot of snow! You have the wildest weather. I can’t get over how you guys get 70 degree days and then a foot of snow. Here in the Northeast, we get highs and lows. We might get a 70 degree day, and then a day in the 40’s. But we don’t generally go from 70 to 18″ of snow! That’s whack (to use the vernacular)!

    Sorry about your apple tree, but your bee garden is gorgeous dressed in white!

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