Green in the Ghetto

14/365 – The Heat

February 1st, 2012

Here in Louisville, KY it is 63 degrees today. February 1st and 63 degrees.
I wish (ok, not entirely. I am a sucker for un-cold) I could say today is an odd day but truth be told, this entire winter has been odd and it’s my understanding this situation is not unique to Louisville.

I went out to toss the chickens some scraps and a bee flew on my forehead. One of OUR bees. I look over at the hive and see this…

The bees are going WILD!

The package we got nearly a year ago was from Louisiana, so maybe this isn’t that strange to them. I don’t know how bee brains operate. The only bee left from that package is the queen though, not that I have any idea what that matters. As if the bees are all like “We’re in Kentucky now. It’s going to get cold here.”

Still! I totally expected my bees to be hudled up in a ball buzzing away trying to keep the queen warm for months. Snacking away on their honey reserves just trying to make it to spring. Instead I look at them and think “What the heck are you ladies going after? Surely there’s no nectar flowing? No flowers in bloom. Doesn’t flying around like this just use up your precious energy?”

Alas, I have no idea. I don’t know what they’re out doing. I keep meaning to go on a beekeeping forum and ask but all that free time, ya know.

I just wonder if I should start planting? I heard the USDA changed planting zones. I guess I should check it out.

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One Response to “14/365 – The Heat”

  1. Jackie

    We just got the below email from the local bee keepers association, thought it might answer your question… Kentuckiana Beekeepers Assoc.

    Hello again, and welcome to the February edition of the LBBA newsletter. The calendar may indicate winter, but the maple trees on our place – and the honeybees that are working the maple blooms – believe spring has arrived. Our weather in western KY sometimes seems to mimic Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. Having lived here virtually all of my 52 years, my advice to bees and beekeepers alike is to not put the long-handles into storage just yet. The warm weather we have enjoyed for much of January and the beginning of February has allowed the bees to keep a loose cluster and both move within the hive to access food-stores and take advantage of any efforts made by beekeepers to provide supplemental feed for the colony. The (supposedly) ideal temperature for an overwintering colony is 45 degrees f. At this temperature, the bees will remain in a loose, but solid cluster, which will move throughout the hive to access food stores. As temperatures drop, there is a corresponding constriction, or compaction of the cluster. With this compaction, the ability to move throughout the hive as a cluster diminishes until the point of immobility is reached. Bees can always move within the cluster, but the cluster as a whole is basically immobile. The temperature at which this immobility occurs varies from hive to hive due to location of the hive (behind a windbreak, in full sun, in shaded areas, etc) and size of the cluster. The temperature at which a cluster becomes stationary is, however, not as cold as we might think. Honeybees are cold-blooded creatures, so think of a bee in the same sense as, say, a toad. By the time the temperature drops into the lower 30′s, cold-blooded creatures – whether toad or honeybee – are not going to be very active. All of this malarkey is a preface to the main point of this editorial; throughout my time as a bee-haver, and bee-keeper, most losses of previously healthy colonies occurred in late February or early to mid March. The scenario leading to colony loss varies somewhat, but generally has to do with the colony breaking cluster on a warm day, then re-clustering away from food stores just prior to a sudden cold snap. This re-clustering, more often than not, is due to the queen becoming active and laying eggs in a location not adjacent to stored food. The cluster tends to favor brood at all costs, thus it settles in a position that is untenable in cold weather. So what is the remedy for this situation? Move south? Insulate the colony? These might be ideas that will solve the problem, but with their own baggage of cost and/or labor. The solution is to keep the cluster in contact with food.the implementation of this solution is problematic. This is because it is not easy to force a bug to act right. They don’t understand English; don’t respond to threats, whether verbal or physical; and in fact, do not care what we humans think of their choices. What am I doing to help alleviate this dilemma? We spent this past week making patties and placing them on top of the cluster in hives with little food stored, and directly above the capped honey in hives that have stored food. Placing these patties on hives creates another issue.raccoons. It seems that raccoons are also highly attracted to essential oils and pollen substitute. The “raccoon-friendly” solution to this problem is to nail the lids on the hives, or place a weight on the lid. (a brick is not sufficient) The “non-raccoon-friendly”solution??? If you have to ask you probably were not raised in western KY, and will not like the answer.
    > The reality of the late-winter loss problem is unsettling to me, in that there is no 100% certain solution. As with some other areas of beekeeping, there is not a formula for success. It is not like a mathematic equation, where the same inputs always bring the same results. Management that is carried out as a standard in a beekeeping operation, whether the operation is two hives or two thousand, seldom yields standard results. One hive thrives; one hive survives; and one hive dies. These are not actual percentages for a beeyard, but are meant to illustrate the futility of trying to manage a colony of honeybees as if it is a gearbox of timed cogs. This should also illustrate the need for a contingency plan.plan “b.” If you come out of winter with a 30% loss, what then? Split strong hives to make up losses; purchase nucs or packages; catch swarms, etc to fill empty equipment. If you are unsure of how to make up losses from your own bees, learn. There are several beekeeping courses available this spring, attend one or more.

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