Monday, March 10, 2014

Winter Storms Are Fading Away to Spring

February is already behind us and we are just over a week into March, and Spring is in the air.  So far March is off to a very wet start but daytime temps are slowly coming up to 50F and flowers are budding so hopefully it leads us into a gentle April and colonies can build up quickly.  February did bring us the water we needed in the mountains but also some extended storms systems and cold temps that took out at least one hive, and likely two.  I'm ever optimistic that the best will survive to multiply in the next year and with each year a genetic line survives you are better able to determine their potential long term.

Hopefully whatever winter has left will be mild and short lived so the hives can build up.  With nicer weather and fresh pollen coming in, hives will be increasing the amount of brood they are raising and can quickly get ahead of themselves.  A storm lasting more than a few days can keep workers trapped inside the hive and without incoming food deliveries the entire colony can go into starvation mode relatively quickly.  However on the flip side if timed well a successful colony can build up to maximize the coming Maple and Cherry tree blooms and be ready to swarm by end of April.  How quickly we need to switch gears from hoping they survive to trying to keep them from swarming!

Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) can be a pollen source.

 Dwarf Daffodils are in bloom.

Hazelnut catkins provide pollen.  

The buds on the fruiting plum tree are about ready to open any day now.  

The flowering plums are in bloom already.

Forsythia can provide nectar.

Crocus are still coming up.  Their pollen is high quality and very attractive to the girls.

Indian-Plum (Oemleria cerasiformis) - A Winter Nectar Source

Native to the Pacific Northwest the Indian Plum is a perennial deciduous shrub with soft lime green leaves in spring.  I've always heard that this is our earliest blooming spring plant native to the Pacific Northwest lowlands and it is my indicator plant for the start of spring blooms.  While anyone that follows my blogs knows I can find nectar or pollen producing plant just about any day of the year in city neighborhoods, it's much harder to find native plants that are in blooming this early.  The Indian Plum is a nectar producer and can tolerate a variety of soil conditions from slightly shady damp areas to dry sunny spots, however sunnier spots will help them bloom more aggressively.  They can be grown relatively easily from cuttings or seeds and have been known to reach 16 feet tall with most around 6-8 feet.  In addition to the nectar producing flowers that attract a variety of pollinators it produces small editable purple fruits "plums" in fall that many animals eat.  While these shrubs are not very compact in shape they can still make for a nice addition to our woodland gardens.

Here are a few pictures I took during the February storm.  Despite the fact it was below freezing a few girls saw the sun and still tried to fly in it.  I don't know if any made it back but I did find a few unfortunate girls frozen in the snow like this one.

One perk of the top bar hive design is that when they are up on legs is it would take several feet of snow before I had to worry about clearing the ice from the entrances.

Hive Checks - 3/9/2014
Geek Daughter Hive
- Saw what looked like robbing from the Rosemary Swarm so took a quick look.  The only bees I found were robbers.  There were two dead clusters and one had died more recently.  This queen line has always had clustering issues and it looks like this one was no different.  I suspect a late November storm took out the smaller of the two clusters and then the mid Feb cold spell did in the other cluster that was no longer large enough to sustain a core temp during the cold snap.  They were 1-2 cells away from stores and the cells they were in were all empty.  This hive went into winter strong.

Other Hives
Rosemary swarm, Ballard swarm, Rebels and Geeks are all still alive and were active today but too grouchy for me to disturb them other than checking that the back frames still had honey.  I'm still concerned that the Geek hive could be queenless, but will wait for a few days of nice weather before I do a thorough inspection.

No checks for Solis or Sand hives, although I would be surprised if Solis was able to survive the cold snap.  They were also a small cluster last time I looked at them and also happen to be a sister to the Geek daughter hive.

As always this time of year I have an eye out for unwanted guests that are waiting out winter for warmer weather.  Here's a Yellow Jacket queen I ran across hiding under a hive lid.  Spiders hide everywhere under the lids yet somehow none of them were making an effort to eat her... lazy spiders.

Back to the bees,

- Jeff