Joe, beekeeper extraordinaire, came over yesterday to check on the bees in these really cold temperatures. As it turns out, really cold might be easier for the bees than the people. They, the bees, form a tighter mass or cluster to keep warm, eat less and reduce their activity to a bare minimum. In warmer times or thaws, they stretch out, think there are flowers from which to eat (which there aren’t) and then begin to eat more honey. This is to their detriment as the store of honey will only go so far, leaving a little too much winter at the end of the honey supply. They can literally starve before spring arrives with new flowers from which to feed.
One way to check on the hive health, is by exhaling into the opening in the hive which brings carbon dioxide into their mix. Because they don’t care for it, they move away and upward toward more oxygen. We were happy to see that when Joe blew, both hives have active and healthy bees that came to the surface.
Because our hives were so healthy and produced so many bees so quickly last year, they swarmed. Jon witnessed one when on a Saturday after a dump run he returned to the barn driveway. When he stepped out of the truck, he could hear this unusual hum coming from between the house and the barn. When he looked in that direction all he could see was a thirty foot wide dark, cloudy-looking mass. As soon as he realized what he was looking at, they as a unit, disappeared into the back field and beyond.
This summer we plan to split them early and will make sure that we have extra boxes on hand to make the transfer quickly.