Even though the bees are all snuggled in for the winter we still have some things we can do for them. Whenever it is relatively warm I try to go down and put my ear to the hive. I want to hear a good buzzing sound, and make sure there is no evidence of mice or other creatures joining the bees for the winter. So far so good. I was even able to capture a bee in flight the other day. Here is a video I took.
Video of our bees flying in Feb
In addition to checking up on the bees we are planning a little Valentine’s day treat. It stuck in my head from bee class last spring.
“sweets for your sweets” – feed hard candy Feb 14
“beware the ides of March” – feed again, with pollen for colony build up.
For the hard candy we are still figuring out what to do. Naturally my class notes have dissapeared, but one of our beekeeping books has the sugar water ratios for us. 15lbs sugar, 4 c water, 3 lbs corn syrup 1/2 tsp cream of tarter, sounds delicious! With just one hive the goal is to make just enough to fill in the hole of the inner cover, maybe a 3in puck. (I suspect the recipie above makes quite a lot more!) While the bees were supposed to have filled the hive with enough honey to make it through winter, we want to give them just a tiny little snack. We won’t open the hive, just enough to get the food in, although I do really wish I could see what is going on. The hard candy means that it will also contains the bees water, but won’t stimulate them to lay more brood. We don’t want them to starve, but nor do we want thm to get all excited about the abundance and build themselves up before they are ready. A bee lollipop essentially, which they can lick until Spring.
Even though the days are getting longer and from a human perspective spring is on the way the hardest part of the winter is still in front of us as far as the bees go. Barring any destruction to the hive more bees die of starvation than freezing, thus “beware the ides of march”. As the weather gets warmer hopefully in March and early April our bees are going to want to venture out and they may run out of food before the first flowers form. For this reason we will feed them again in mid March. That way they will be alive and ready to go when the flowers arrive.
As a final note, all this getting through the winter business is apparently easier if you were born in Maine than if you arrived from Georgia on a truck. Check out this link about how much better Maine raised queens are. Sadly there are not many available.
MSBA president talks about northern raised queens