Late-winter notes

We’ve had some unusually warm weather in Colorado for the first half of February.  On February 10th, I hit 77.4°F in the bee yard (Denver broke the record high temperature for the month at 80°F that day) , but most days have been in the low to mid 60’s for much of the month.  Heck, today it was 70 according to my weather station (I was off skiing in the mountains where it was warm, but not that warm!).  But, this is Colorado, and we are expecting a good snowstorm on Thursday, so winter isn’t done with us yet.  And our snowiest months are March and April anyway – typically it snows the week after package bees arrive in mid to late April.

So, what does this have to do with the bees?  Well, it means that spring is on it’s way and these warm days are a chance to gauge how your colonies are doing.  Of the 7 hives I tended last year, only 3 made it going into the winter – the 2 in my backyard (BnB1 and BnB2) and Laura’s hive down the street.  All had plenty of honey stores, but as I noted in a previous post, Laura’s colony didn’t have their honey very well distributed.

I had been seeing activity in the hives in my backyard on the warm days – first from BnB1, but later more from BnB2.  I asked Laura to check on her hive. She said she didn’t see any activity, but there were some dead bees on the landing board.  I asked her to clear those away and see if more appeared – that would mean someone was cleaning up the hive. Then I got a text from her saying she was seeing bees going in and out of the hive!  It was a couple of days before I got down there, but when I did, I also saw bees going in and out.  However, Laura’s bees were golden Italians and these were darker.  So, I guessed they were robber bees and that the colony was dead.  I took off the insulation to look through the window and sure enough, this colony was toast.  There were dead bees all over the floor and just a couple of the robbers running around on the combs.  I blocked the entrance and took out the good honey combs to save for a new colony.  So, I guess not having honey bands at the top of the combs was a bad idea after all.

As HB at Backyard Bee Hive Blog noted, the silver maples are blooming in our area.  I also had a Facebook friend post a picture of some crocuses in bloom.  Sure enough, my backyard bees have been bringing in pollen for the past couple of weeks. 

Bees bringing in pollen in February to BnB2

Most of the pollen I’ve seen is grayish/green, but the past few days, I’ve been seeing some yellowish or orange pollen (I’m colorblind) coming in like on the bee going through the entrance – maybe more crocuses are blooming somewhere?

I also looked through the windows of BnB1 and BnB2 in the past couple of weeks. It can be deceiving at first because the bees eat the honey along the comb edges so when you first look in, the combs look empty.  But when I peered in between the combs, I could see plenty of honey in there.  It’s still been a bit too cold to open up the hives, but I think for now they are okay.  I need to do a heft test to see how heavy the hives are – heavier means more honey.  I have lots of honey combs stored in my basement for spring feeding if need be.

But now that we are going into winter again, it’s time to start monitoring the remaining hives more closely to make sure they have enough honey and if not to give them some more.  It’s also time for me to start building some new equipment – I need another nucleus hive with the Hardison dimensions and I think I’ll build a couple of swarm traps.  And I need a couple of new supers and frames for the Langstroth hive.  Plus, I’ve still got some bee books to read!

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One Response to Late-winter notes

  1. Julie says:

    Two surviving hives! Congrats! Sorry about the ones that didn’t make it, but at least you’ll have a place to put splits later this year.

    Have you done any autopsies yet?

    Crocus pollen is orange, I believe. The pollen on the bees in the photo is a buttery yellow, so it must be something else. Beautiful!

    I can never decide whether I’d prefer a spring like yours, which starts up really early but teases for months, or like mine, which waits until the very last minute to wake up, but then it arrives with a vengeance. As much as I’ve enjoyed seeing my bees flit around a bit the last week, it would be cool to see pollen coming in again.

    Enjoy all your bee-crafts!

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