Monday, December 22, 2014
A New Bee Year Begins
Today is the first day of a new Bee Keeping year. As the days lengthen the attendant bees will begin moving the queen around and forcing her to lay more and more eggs to begin the Spring build up. The queen maybe the one that lays the eggs and puts out the pheromones that rules the hive but according to some much smarter people than me it is the attendant bees that make all the decisions.
Whenever you see a queen in the hive she will almost always be surrounded by ten or so attendants. These attendants are the oldest bees in the hive next to the queen. They have survived the nurse bee stage, been guard bees and foragers and moved up to the top tier of the bee aristocracy.
Here is a good picture of a group of attendant bees. A couple of years ago I had a queen that somehow got out of her hive and she is nestled in the center of her attendants. They are all facing her and in the process of moving her back into the hive where she belongs. The attendants will do the same thing in the hive directing the queen where to lay and how many eggs in each comb section.
The attendants and old foragers are also the ones who decide when to swarm, which eggs will be raised as new queens and guide a swarm to it's new home. I am assuming they are also the ones who begin to realize when the day's get longer and decide on the timing for the Spring build up.
This maybe the first day of a new bee keeping year but the hardest days are now soon to come. The delicate balance of building up while not using up the stores that remain in the hive is the most dangerous time within the hive. January, February and March are the leanest months of the year for the hives with few days of flight and very little if anything out there producing nectar. Pollen usually isn't as much of an issue but only the larva consume pollen mixed with honey and known as bee bread.
Even feeding the bees dry sugar or liquid feed is not a guarantee of honey. It needs to be turned into honey and if the conditions are too cold and wet they may not have time to produce honey out of those raw materials.
What I typically do is run two large brood chambers on each hive before adding on surplus supers. My theory, which seems to be working for the most part so far, is that the two large chambers hold enough stores for the bees to make it through Winter and I never touch those taking only what get's put in the over flow surplus supers. However severe, long stretches of cold can require more honey than usual too so there is always that unknown factor.
It hasn't been especially cold here this year so far but we have had a lot of rain and gloomy days. Very little time for the bees to get out and fly. I imagine they are all still balled up keeping warm and eating their stores.
Here's hoping for a good build up and plenty of food to make it through the next three months or so.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!