Thursday, December 21, 2023

Pax Vobiscum


December 21 marks the winter solstice, the date with the year’s shortest daylight and longest night. The solstice falls among winter days in which religious and cultural holidays are celebrated around the world. The winter solstice is also recognized as the start of the honey bee colony’s year. It is on the solstice that queen bees start laying eggs after an egg laying interruption in the fall. Today, when temperatures rose above 50 degrees allowing bees to make foraging flights, I observed foragers bringing pollen into the hives. The arrival of pollen is usually associated with egg laying occurring in the hive. When brood is present, the colonies must warm their hives to 95 degrees by consuming their honey stores to generate heat. Though there are few plants in bloom during the late fall and winter, I have observed bees foraging on fall asters on the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. Some honey bees and native pollinators have been foraging the citrus-scented blossoms of mullein, shown in today’s photo.


As we end the beekeeper’s year, it is a good time to reflect on the friends we have encountered. I am especially appreciative of the Bemis family, who operate Bemis Honey Bee Farm and Supplies in Little Rock. The Bemis’s business includes the production of honey as well as bee hive equipment and bees. The honey bee farm also provides beekeeping training, which I participate in, as well as hosting two annual public events, Bee Day in the spring and the Arkansas Honey Festival in the fall. I am overwhelmed by the generosity and thoughtfulness of the Bemises who established the Rita Peace Underhill Memorial Beekeeping Scholarship in honor of my late wife, Rita. The scholarship provides hives, bees, equipment, and training for a starting beekeeper. Others beekeepers contributed hives and colonies of bees. It is with great appreciation that I recognize our beekeeper community. In the spirit of the season, I offer to all that peace be with you.