The calendar tells us that three more weeks of winter remain. We declare that spring begins on the day of the vernal equinox. However the change in seasons progresses at about one week for each 100 miles of latitude. The weather warmed today and allowed the bees to fly. I noticed foragers working the tiny white flowers of sand wort blooming among clover leaves starting to unfold in the winter-bare ground. Other foragers were forcing open a single petal of crabapple flower buds today to access nectar or pollen. Tomorrow the blossoms should be more open. With warm weather forecast for tomorrow, the foragers will return to the same flowers. Red maple flowers are opening, but not yet attracting bees. The trees must not be producing nectar and pollen at this time. Similar flights were made a month ago 400 miles to the south where many of the queen bees are produced. A beekeeping friend in New England now covered in deep snow won’t see flowers for weeks to come.
In the Arkansas Delta, March is the harshest month for the honey bee colony. While a few flowering plants are just starting to bloom, there is no significant nectar flow. Brood production is well underway, and considerable amounts of food are needed for the developing bees. With brood present, the hive’s brood area must be maintained at 95 degrees. The honey and pollen stores are dwindling in the hives. Some of the food for the brood is held in the tissue of fat bodies and glands of the worker bees themselves. The quality of this food follows the health of the bees from the time they emerged as adults last October. Meanwhile, the colonies are growing and consuming increasing amounts of food. March’s rapidly changing weather patterns bring both cold and warm days. The bees consume much energy on warm days like today searching for food; often more energy is spent than is gained in foraging. Most starvation occurs in March.