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Early Swarms 2016

I’m not at all convinced the warm climate we are seeing this winter is here to stay. But I’m not sure the bees agree with my weather predictions either. Watching the landing boards with foragers in full pollen collection mode and brief inspections tell me that some colonies are already in full tilt brood production.

What does this mean for the beekeeper?

Well, it means lots of excitment watching them grow at a rate that is phenomenal. By this time next month either you will have made room for the extra bees and managed them for swarming or you may be looking up in the trees for half of your work force.

Or it could actually be more dire. Winter food stores up until this point may have been steadily declining at a gradual but predictable rate. So what happens when the queen starts her spring buildup, egg laying extravaganza? Well, between increased consumption of ever more house bees and foragers, plus trying to feed thousands of larvae, the food stores decline can no longer be graphed as a straight line. Now it is a sharp spike upward!

Beginning now is when the beekeeper needs to remember to lift the backs of their hives. And on those pretty days when you get into them to ooh-ahh at their numbers and beauty, look and assess for nectar stores. December and January saw a full pantry with slow, steady declines, but brood rearing brings on food demands that dwarf late fall and early winter.

And a final scare for you. It’s quite a curiosity that starved bees don’t slowly decline due to lack of food. No, for them it’s the Three Musketeers: “All for one and one for all,” meaning they’ll do down together if they run out of food. One day they are all fed, the next, well…not.