I am not yet sure of all the effects that the warmer than average weather we are having this winter has had on the bees. Normally in the winter the colony clusters around the queen to keep her warm. The bees are restful, conserving energy and food. Yet with the temperatures being so warm, the bees are not settling, and the colonies have been active and sending out foragers.
With all this activity the bees use up in more honey to sustain themselves than they would have had if they were in a cluster. With reserves dwindling, and no sources of nectar, starvation is a concern.
So I have been feeding a bit. On warm days when the bees are active, I have been opening the outer cover and spreading granulated table sugar on the inner cover near the vent. I have been trying not to overfeed, as this may start the queen to begin laying eggs, using up even more reserves to feed the pupae and the added population as it hatches. It’s hard to tell though if that’s happening because although its warm enough for the bees to be active, its still not warm enough for me to open up the hive, smoke it, and pull frames to see. For now, I am guessing how much to feed, based on how much activity I see and how much the bees are taking in. Each hive is different.
Two day ago I was very surprised when I checked the hives. Bees were coming back to the hives loaded up with pale yellow pollen – not just a bee or two, but many. I am not sure where they are getting the pollen. There are dandelions in flower, and some people are saying that their crocus and daffodils are up. A few rouge forsythias have scattered blooms on some of their branches. It could be any of these sources, and probably others I don’t know of or haven’t thought of.
If the bees are getting pollen, they are also getting nectar, and so I have to guess that egg laying is probably going on in a few of the hives.
I am not sure where all this will lead. On one hand, because they are active, I know that all my hives have made it this far through the winter. On the other, I don’t know how much all this activity will help or stress the colonies.
In the end, Nature will decide, and I will have learned new lessons.