Monday, December 30, 2013

Looking Forward to 2014

Winter solstice has come and gone and the calendar is about to tick over to 2014.  The days are ever so slightly getting longer by the second and I'm looking forward to seeing some late winter / early spring flowers.  With the extended cold spell we had there isn't much left blooming, but there are a few exceptions that somehow put on their best show in 30-40F degree weather.  The bees have noticed that shift back to longer days as well and some hives may soon be restarting brood rearing (although it's much too cold to check to confirm exactly when they start).  I've noticed the girls flying when the sun is out and it's at least 42-43F degrees, however some hives just won't roll out of bed until it is over 50F for several hours a day.

One source of that winter pollen coming into the hives is from the Winter Blooming Camellia.  Finding one in the heart of winter must be like winning the bee-lotto with their large rain resistant flowers and sweet scent.  Winter blooming varieties of Camellias prefer partial shade and do well under taller trees or next to buildings, and you will want to give them enough space to grow and have air flow to prevent disease. There are several colors available from white to red, and as always when buying pollinator friendly plants remember to look for single form flowers that allow easy access to the pollen.  Camellias are evergreen providing attractive foliage year round and require well drained soil that is slightly acidic.  If you have been looking for a nice container plant for a patio, balcony or entrance way this might be the one for you.

Winter Blooming Camellia.

There are native Mahonia varieties that bloom a little later in the season but the Asian varieties are in full bloom right now.

Catkins are forming and will be a good pollen source in a few weeks.

Hive Observations (12/23/2013)
The sun came out briefly and the temps jumped up to 50 for awhile this morning and I was able to do an entrance activity check on most hives.
  • Ballard Swarm, Rosemary Swarm - busting out of the hives.
  • Geeks, Geek Daughter, Rebels, Solis - medium activity.
  • Architects - very low activity
  • Icon Granddaughter, Luna - no entrance activity.
  • Sand - (this was the only one I didn't get to check)
Hive Observations (12/28/2013)

Found what I believe was the geek queen outside the hive (dead).  The last inspection I did on them was September 21st and I didn't see the queen at that time, but noted I saw signs of a queen.  Putting my optimistic hat on I'm hoping they raised a supersedure queen and went into winter with two queens and now that the days are starting to get longer they disposed of the old queen.  There is still good activity in and out of the hive, and it's not unheard of for hives to supersede late season and go into winter with two queens.  Next nice day I'll open them up to check to see what the case might be, however looking at long range weather forecast that might be awhile.

Her stinger was more exposed than I would expect to see.  If they drug her out I might expect to see more wing tearing but perhaps she died of natural causes that hopefully they detected was coming back in fall. 

Back to the bees.

- Jeff