“Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.” William Jennings Bryan

Saturday, January 1, 2011

January 1, 2011

This isn’t a good thing…

Yesterday and today the air temperatures warmed into the high 50’s and low 60’s, causing the bees to “break cluster”.

When the cold comes, the worker bees stop foraging and ball up around the queen to keep her warm through the winter. The cluster moves along the frames, eating the stores of honey through the winter. If they did not store enough honey through the season to get them through the winter until pollen and nectar are available again, they simply starve to death.

When its cold, the cluster isn’t very active, using little energy, and needing little food (honey). Yet, when the temperatures rise in the winter, some of the bees break cluster and begin moving around – they clean the hive of dead bees, take flight, etc. This all requires energy and that means the bees need to take up more food, using up stores faster, and increasing the chances that they run out of honey long before winter breaks.

That’s why this isn’t so good…

Today there were a few hundred bees out on my oldest hive. It’s the most I have seen outside a hive on a winter’s day since I started bee keeping three years ago.

From another perspective, I am happy to see that the bees are still alive, look healthy, and not too many dead ones were being cleaned from any of the hives.

But it’s only the first day of January and there are ten to twelve weeks until the winter turns to spring and pollen and nectar become available again. It’s a long way to go. The best thing would be if the weather stayed cold and they remain in cluster – the worst case is more days like this.

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