The bees are flying today. Even though it is the middle of the winter, the weather is warm today, a January thaw. Bees are making foraging and cleansing flights. Warm southern winds often bring a few days that allow the bees to break out of their winter cluster. During these warm periods, beekeepers get an opportunity to briefly open their hives for a quick check. This will not be a thorough hive inspection; we will only check to see that the colonies are alive and that they have enough food to survive until spring flowers bring a nectar flow. The beekeeper gently smokes the hives and opens the covers. Since bees tend to move upward in their hives through the winter, the beekeeper may find the cluster at the very top of the hive. If that is where we find the bees, it is likely that the bees have consumed much of their winter food stores and the colony needs an emergency feeding of dry sugar placed above the inner cover. If the bees are not seen, the colony may be clustered in a lower box underneath a box full of honey. In this case, we may pull a frame to peer into the box below. If we see the cluster of live bees there, all is well; we can close the hive feeling comfortable about the colony’s chance of surviving the remainder of the winter.
If a colony is found to have died, usually by starvation, its
remaining honey stores can be distributed to other hives. The combs of dead-out
hives need to be protected from hive scavengers. The equipment can be brought to
an indoor storage facility or the frames can be protected by the bees of strong
living colonies. Stacking hive bodies or honey supers on strong hives protects
the combs from wax moths and small hive beetles. This equipment can be used in
the spring to make colony divisions. Today’s photo: winter foraging flights.