The 2021 Winter Solstice will officially begin Tuesday, December 21, at 10:59 am EST. The Winter Solstice means something different to honeybees and to beekeepers. It’s typically associated with the beginning of winter for most people but for the bees, and beekeepers, it’s the beginning of spring.
Very slowly, as the days begin to lengthen, the queen will begin to increase in the number of eggs she lays. On a colony level, for the bees, the goal is to have a full staff of bees ready to reproduce on a colony level (i.e. swarm) at the beginning of the coming nectar and pollen flow. This gives the swarming bees the best chance of survival.
In preparation for this reproductive event, brood rearing begins during the first months of the new year resulting in hives bubbling over with bees by early March. But this increase in population and reproductive stimulation has other ramifications for the beekeeper wishing to discourage that workforce from leaving.
The beekeeper seeks to:
1) encourage population growth to make a good honey crop while
2) protect the colony from starvation as the bees burn through their stores in order to feed ever increasing numbers of larvae, while
3) discouraging upcoming swarm preparations.
In short, your goal is to encourage an expanding bee population, monitor their food stores, and as February and March approach, to try to keep their minds off swarming. It’s like walking a tightrope!