February 10th was unseasonably warm again. It was just over 55 degrees. I opened up the one hive that had already died and I found it had several frames of honey left. So they did not starve. There were not as many dead bees as I would normally expect to see, so I think the problem was there were not enough bees to survive the cold. They were in there and buzzing in late December, but we had a mild winter up to that time.
The good new is I can use the frames of honey in my other hives to make sure they all have enough to get through to spring. I peeked into the other 4 hives and found that only one of them really needed any honey. This is good news also.
It does not happen too often that you can check your hives in February. And it is not real often they have plenty of honey left this late in the winter. This could be a good beekeeping year.
The next issue to watch is this week of warm weather cumming now. If it is too warm for too long, the bees will start to raise young bees and then when it gets cold again they could exhaust themselves trying to keep the young bees warm.
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How are my bees doing? Well January 18th was an exceptionally warm day for the middle of winter in Iowa and it gave me a rare opportunity to see the bees flying for the first time in around two months. It ordinarily needs to be above 50 or 55 degrees and sunny for the bees to be out and flying. This day it was only 45 degrees but the sun was pretty intense and it warmed up the hive boxes enough that some of the hives had bees out flying. It is good for the bees to get a chance to get outside of the hive and take a cleansing flight. They do not ‘go to the bathroom’ inside of the hive. So in the cold months of winter they have to ‘hold it’ until a warm day comes along. Two months is a long time for that, but it’s not uncommon here in the Midwest.
All in all the bees are doing OK. One hive looks like it has died though. Of the 5 I started the winter with it was the smallest. I had fed it sugar syrup in the fall but they just never put enough of it away. I tried to give them a couple of frames of honey in December but the cluster of bees was already at the top of the hive boxes and I could not open the hive without exposing them to too much cold air.
The remaining 4 hives should be OK until spring. They started winter with more honey, but I will need to start lifting each hive soon to judge how much honey they have left.
I took this short video of the bees flying in front of one hive. This is a top bar hive. The sound is mostly a tree service grinding up some tree limbs somewhere in the neighborhood. But some of the buzz is actually the bees!