They Pulled Through The Winter

 And Have Started To Raise A New Generation

Today was a perfect day.  The temperature reached 60ºF, sunny and no wind. I was lucky to be home and used the opportunity to clean up part of the garden.  I don’t worry much about the plants since I know that most of them are either native or very cold-hardy.  What I’ve been anxious about is the honey bees.

Most information I came across agreed that the Italian honey bees don’t do well in a very cold climate.  Last winter was exceptionally cold throughout the US and the North, where I live, the temperature dipped down to -4ºF at one point.  Add a few feet of snow and a wind chill factor and it was the coldest winter that I can recall.  I held my breath for the bees since there was nothing I could do but wait.  Through the whole winter, every time the temperature rose above 50ºF, I would go out to see whether there were any dead bees in front of the hives.  If there were, that meant there were still live bees inside to carry the dead out.  It’s sad to see but good to feel seeing dead bees because it’s the only sign of life I can count on when I can’t open the hive.

I know today is a perfect day to determine whether they are dead or alive.  By 1 pm, the temperature rose to 55ºF, the bees came out in droves from the first hive.  They started with their cleansing flight and some began to take their dead comrades out.  Then I saw something that made me happier…some of them were bringing back pollen!  I have no idea where they were getting pollen from.  Trees around here are still bare, only Maples have started to bud.  I hope they didn’t raid pollen from porch flowers around the neighborhood.  From what I know, flowers from big-box stores are loaded with pesticide.  I don’t want them to end up dead after they pulled through such a tough winter.

They were going in and out all afternoon, many of them bringing back pollen.
They were going in and out all afternoon, many of them bringing back pollen.

Then the third hive, the smallest one, appeared.  I didn’t expect them to survive as they were the weakest with the least honey in storage.  But they did.  The majority of them seemed to like using the top entrance.  The ones that came back with pollen had difficulty climbing up to the entrance so I put a piece of broken clay pot in as a ramp.

The third hive, most of them prefer to use the top entrance.
The third hive, most of them prefer to use the top entrance.


The second hive seems to be gone.  Nothing stirred and nothing I can do about it now.  I will open it up on my next day off from work.  I’ll leave the foam insulation on the surviving hives until the temperature has stabilized.  I’ll leave some sugar water hanging by the patio for them, far enough from both hives so they won’t be robbed.  I’ll let them do what they do best.  I’ll let them be bees.

2 thoughts on “They Pulled Through The Winter

  1. What a relief that at least most of the bees survived – and through such extreme temperatures! An alternative way of feeding the syrup could be a contact feeder inside the roof of each hive (above the crown board), less chance of spreading disease that way and also would help keep the syrup warmer for the bees.

    1. Thank you for your advice. I will do that when the temperature is above 60F because I have an insulation foam layer under the cover as well and I don’t want to remove it now. But I have the sugar syrup ready to go when the temperature warms up a bit.

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