If a hive starts too late in the season to build up they aren't able to take advantage of the abundance of spring and early summer flowers and thus will miss the best window of time to reproduce (swarm). However if they start too early and a winter storm moves in for more than a few days they get hit with two major problems. One their food supply gets cut off, and the second is they have to try and keep their young warm. Once they start building up and raising new bees they essentially put all their chips on the table and they will die to keep them warm and fed so timing is everything in this gamble to succeed. Fortunately I've found that the bees are masters at predicting what's coming a season ahead and mother nature doesn't allow for sloppiness.
Speaking of plants in bloom, here are just a few the bees might be finding on those nicer days.
Hive Checks (1/20/2014)
The weather when I was checking today was about 40F which is typically too cold for an inspection. However the sun was out and shining brightly and with top bar hives I can peak at the edges of the cluster without releasing much cluster heat because I'm not removing the roof.
- Not flying. May not have a queen since I found one outside on the doorstep a few weeks ago. Moved honey frames closer to the cluster.
- Not flying. Moved honey frames closer to the cluster.
- I find it strange that these girls have been flying this season in the cool weather because they never have liked to fly in cool weather before. Moved honey closer to the cluster.
- Added some honey frames from the Architect hive and some raw sugar. They had a good number of bees coming and going.
- Same as the Rosemary Swarm. Added some honey frames from the Architect hive and some raw sugar. They had a good number of bees coming and going.
- They didn't make it. Looking at the frames the cause of death looks a little like they died during the deep freeze in late Nov/early Dec. They were surrounded by honey on all sides and above. The bees didn't look like they were sick and I want to say they died due to failure to cluster.
- They didn't make it. It looks like the DWV that was there late summer took them out. I wasn't sure if they could pull through going into fall since they had good numbers. Pulling un-emerged bees from cells they all had DWV.
Hive Checks (1/25/2014)
It was just under 50F today and sunny.
To my surprise they were flying and looked like they were in good shape with plenty of honey nearby. It seems that the new queen was able to power through the DWV that was taking hold in this hive last August.
They didn't make it. Small cluster without any food nearby on the frame. It looks like they ignored all the sugar I gave them as well.
Hanging on but they didn't look very strong. They were not near any honey and I put sugar into empty frames so they had something within reach. If there are no major storms they have a chance of making it but otherwise I don't think the cluster is big enough to stay warm enough. I have noticed that both this hive and the Luna hive seem to be in a cold spot even though they are at the peak of the hill in an otherwise sunny location. I suspect the building and trees are creating a 10-15 foot micro climate around the hives that keeps these hives colder in the winter when the sun is further South.
Back to the bees,