Last winter in Massachusetts was very snowy. The final total of snow in my area was about 108 inches! We also had quite a bit of wind. One of the things that Christy Hemenway talked about in her class was wind and how it can be very difficult for the bees to stay warm when they are constantly getting hit by the wind. My host hive is very exposed to the elements and I needed to get some kind of barricade in place for them.
The winter has been very mild here this year. I don’t even know if we have gotten 6 inches of snow. This mild weather has led to some procrastination on my part and I did not get the hay bales and set them up around the hive as early as I wanted to. With being so late, I missed out on getting hay from the farm that I usually do. Luckily, Rachel was able to get some hay from a farmer that she knows. She was able to get 6 bales from him.
On February 3rd I went over to set up the hay bales around the hive. It had been 2 days since I had discovered that the hives in my yard had died. I really wanted to do what I can to help this colony survive. I set up the bales to protect the north facing side and the west facing side of the hive. The entrance faces east and there is conservation land down the hill, so I didn’t feel that I needed to put bales there.
I am so glad that I got the bales up when I did. The wind has picked up quite a bit around here lately. We have had a lot of really windy nights and some very windy days. Just the other night I was awake for quite a while listening to the wind and worrying about the bees. I was thinking about going over to the hive and strapping it, but I decided against it. If I were to strap the hive and the wind blew it over, I worried that the entire hive would be thrown over. I was thinking that if the hive wasn’t strapped down, then the wind might only take the lid off.
I visited the hive on February 20th. It was another nice, warm day here. I wanted to make sure the bees were out flying. There were so many of them outside of the hive! I was so happy to see that. They were cleaning dead bees out of the hive and taking cleansing flights. I also noticed that they were in the hay bales. I think that they were getting water from the bales, since the bales were wet. It seems that the hay bales serve a second purpose for these bees.
I am concerned about this colonies food stores. They went into the winter with probably close to 70 pounds of honey, but with all of the warm weather I am sure they have eaten up a lot of their stores. I did put in a two pound block of hard candy, but I really wanted them to have honey. Since I was able to collect a decent amount of honey from the Langstroth hive, I decided to use some of that honey to feed them.
On February 28th, it was a nice day and I felt that it was a good day to put the honey into the feeder area. I had no plans on opening the brood nest, I did not want to break their propolis seal or let the cool air in. When I got to the hive, I spent some time watching the bees flying out and around. They were busy and there was a good amount of bees out. I opened the window to see if I could see them. Wow, they have built up the colony some already. I was surprised to see so many bees on the combs, but I was also relieved. It means that the queen is laying and the brood is maturing.
After checking in on them, I opened the feeder area. They had eaten some of the candy block, but not very much. I put about 2 cups of honey into the feeder and put it in the hive. My feeder has space for two jars, but I only put one. I took the candy and put it on the feeder where there wasn’t a jar. This way they have both types of food and hopefully hunger is not an issue.
It is the beginning of March now and it looks like next week were are going to have some very nice days. One day it may even get up to 70 degrees! I will be checking on the bees frequently to make sure they are out flying and that they have enough food. I have noticed some flowers starting to bloom. In my yard I have crocus and pansies blooming right now. If the blooming continues then the bees should be able to start collecting pollen soon. Rachel had said that the skunk cabbage looks like it is almost ready to bloom. From what I have heard, honey bees love skunk cabbage.