Warm days in late winter afford an opportunity to make the first in-depth examination of the bee hives. As we approach the vernal equinox and the changing of seasons, we find strong colonies expanding rapidly. Colonies with a productive queen have large, circular patches of brood on numerous frames. As soon as the pupae emerge as adults, workers immediately clean their cells and prepare them for reused in producing more brood. Drones are walking about the surface of combs of some of the hives, an indication that the bees are preparing for raising new queens. With our hives comprised of three medium-size hive bodies, we typically find that the brood nest now occupies the top two boxes. The lowest hive box is usually empty of bees, brood, and honey; the bees having moved upward during the winter. We can now move this empty box of frames of drawn comb to the top of the brood nest. This move makes available more empty cells for the queen to use for colony build-up, and rearranging the brood nest stimulates the colony to build up an even greater population for nectar gathering and honey production. With erratic weather in March, it is important to avoid separating areas of brood production when rearranging the hive. A cold night will often lead to the bees’ covering one brood area and leaving another to chill and die. It is also important when making rearrangements inside the hive at this time of the year to avoid separating the brood from the stored honey. We can even help the bees survive the next few critical weeks of uncertain weather by moving frames of honey and pollen close to the brood nest.
Click on today’s photo to see a honey bee foraging for dead nettle pollen. To access this wildflower of the mint family, the forager must learn to place its head under the flower petals that form a hood protecting the flower, an uncomfortable task for the bee.--Richard