Great news! After a quick peek inside my bee colonies a few days ago, 19 out of 20 hives made it through the winter (so far). But just like a Vegas gambler on a winning streak, each surviving colony is in the process of going “all in,” betting on new food being available within a few weeks. Honestly this is a bet that each hive must make if they are to survive and grow new bees to replace the withered ones that lasted through the winter.
Surviving and Thriving
During the cold days of December and January, bees in my area completely shut down the rearing of new bees (brood). In doing so, they are able to conserve energy and honey stores by letting the temperature within the core of the colony drop to 55-60 degrees.
That all changes as soon as the queen begins to lay eggs. In order for these new eggs and brood to survive, the temperature in the inner colony is raised to approximately 95 degrees. This can quickly consume the remaining resources of the colony.
Stacking the Deck
As a beekeeper, this is one of the few times during the year where I can intervene and make a positive difference for the colony. If the bees are running low on stored honey, I will feed them sugar syrup. While the sugar syrup isn’t ideal, it is better than a colony of dead bees.
The other thing I will do is provide a pollen substitute to the hives. This pollen substitute contains critical protein that will be the lifeblood for rearing that first round of brood (until nature kicks in with meaningful amounts of the real thing).
With this limited intervention and some luck, the remaining colonies will enter spring with a large force of bees ready for the April/May honey flow.
Photo credit: Honeybee collecting pollen