January in the Hive

Jan 11, 2018 by

January in the Hive


January is not my favorite time of year for beekeeping.  It is hard to get out to the bees.  Can’t open the hive, can’t see anything, hard to hear anything, it is too cold and frankly I’m just not motivated enough to try to do much of  anything outdoors.

I have performed as much as I know to ensure the success of the hives I am trying to overwinter.  I checked the fecundity of the queen, I kept the mite counts low, I checked for nosema, I fed my bees, I added sugar boards, I made certain there was ventilation, and  I insulated and wrapped the colonies. Now that I have done all that, just what are the bees doing?

My bees are huddled together forming a cluster, a large one, I hope.  They have engaged their thoracic muscles and the colony acts as one to generate heat, keeping the cluster’s internal temperature to 93 degrees.  They are rotating in and out of the cluster, so that every bee will keep warm enough. (It is amazing!  Honey bees can maintain this temperature down to -65 degrees F.)  So far they have not been consuming very much of their stores, but within the next several weeks, that will exponentially increase.

Walking around my colonies in these subzero temperatures, I have perceived the length of the daylight hours increasing ever so incrementally.  I am equally certain the queen has perceived the same. As she does she will begin to lay eggs in quantities increasing daily. She has probably been laying all along, just enough to maintain the population, but for her, now the real work is just beginning.

She is beginning to lay eggs that will produce bees that may become the first foragers of the New Year.  They will be ready to forage in late February, early March when some of the earliest blooms of the year appear.  They will bring in the first fresh pollen of the year stimulating the queen to lay the eggs at a more rapid pace.  The eggs she lays then will be the ones that will transform into foragers at the beginning of the honey flows.

It is important to stay on top of activities inside the hive. I have to take a quick peek inside to ensure there is enough pollen and honey available for the bees to meet nutritional requirements.

Some commercial beekeepers will begin mite control treatments mid-January.  I will not.  Usually mite infestation levels will not increase dramatically until the queen begins producing drones. What I will do is slip a sticky board under the hive and try and make a rough determination of the mite infestation level. If I see any levels that are high, I will treat that hive.

This would be a good time of the year to make a resolution to keep better records about my bees. — I also need to make a resolution about keeping my resolutions. I will do better.

What is in the hive now?  I can always find Hope inside the hive.

May your bees be healthy.

David Hocutt


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