In the temperate regions, the honey bee’s entire life cycle is geared around surviving the winter season when flowers are not producing food. Cold winter temperatures prevent the bees from flying and making cleansing flights. To raise brood, requires greatly warming the brood nest. Because the winter season makes for an interruption in the honey bee’s food supply, the bees must store adequate amounts of honey to feed the colony until flowers bloom again in the spring. While the amount of honey stored in the hive is largely dependent upon the available nectar in the fall and the amount of honey harvested by the beekeeper, it is also affected by the health of the colony. Colonies afflicted by the new strain of Nosema disease have a reduced population of foraging workers, because the disease shortens the bees’ lives. Colonies that survive the winter are likely to be the ones that are not excessively susceptible to pests and pathogens that affect the concentrated cluster of bees. Among these conditions are tracheal mites, Nosema disease, and chalkbrood. Merely surviving the winter is a great measure of the health of the honey bee colony. Harsh winters actually separate the honey bee colonies having beneficial traits and behaviors from those that do not. A late-winter hive inspection finds the brood nest expanding rapidly on strong colonies. Foragers carry pollen of several different colors. A few drones walk about the combs.
Pears, flowering trees of the rose family, are in full bloom in the Mid-South. The nectar of the pear contains a lower concentration of sugars than many of the other plants in bloom. Honey bees tend to forage from flowers that offer them the greatest abundance and concentration of sugars. To pollinate pears, beekeepers often move hives into the orchard as the trees start to bloom to encourage the bees to forage the thin sugars of pear nectar. Click on today’s photo of a honey bee collecting caramel-colored pollen from a pear blossom.--Richard