The Art of BEEing: Wrapping up winter


It’s still January and less than a week ago we had an unusual snow, but the signs are starting to build that the brief desert winter is beginning to reach it’s end. Hardy desert wildflowers have begun to green up from the recent rains, and in a few protected spots on the mountains the first tiny wildflower blossoms have begun to appear.

The bees are becoming more active. On a warm day a couple of weeks ago I visited the bees for a quick spot check in the hive, and I found that although only a handful were flying the colony seemed to be doing well numerically. Unfortunately despite my attempts at feeding them they remained very light on food stores with very few capped cells left. Seeing that apparently no bees had ventured up to the feeder board for the sugar I had placed there, I removed the feeder board and resorted to a sheet of newspaper directly on top of the frames for their sugar supply.

Today was the first good bee day since then, so I wandered over to the hive and was pleased to see that the bees were very active. Over the span of several minutes I watched bees come and go at the rate of a couple or so every second, with the traffic relatively evenly split on two very definite courses, one to the northeast and one to the west. I don’t know what forage they may have found, but it certainly looked like they had found something and were in active foraging mode. On removing the cover I could see that the bees still hadn’t touched the sugar, so I decided to try a different approach in my efforts to get at least some extra food supplies into the colony. Taking 4 saucers, I poured a few tablespoons of 1:1 sugar water in each and placed them near the hive entrance. After a few minutes the first bee found its way to the sugar pond, and shortly thereafter all 4 saucers were covered in bees. When I stopped back by after the evening cold had begun to fall I found all 4 saucers had been licked clean.

The main wildflower bloom here typically runs from mid to late February into April, so although it’s still early I’m beginning to have some confidence that the colony will hold out long enough to be able to resupply on the wildflowers.

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