To all my fellow Southerners let me be the first to wish you good luck as we start pollen season! For many people it's a miserable time filled with antihistamines, tissues, sneezing and congestion. Many will lament the layer of yellow/green stuff on their cars as they make yet another trip to the car wash, but for the beekeeper this is the beginning of our favorite time of year! Much like kids getting excited on Thanksgiving, as they watch Santa roll down 34th Street in the Macy's Day Parade(am I showing my age???), for the beekeeper the arrival of the first traces of pollen are Mother Nature's signal to get those hives ready for the spring nectar flow.
Nobody needs to tell the bees to get to work. All winter long, when the weather has been favorable, the scout bees have left the hives looking for food sources. If they find pollen they go back and let their hive mates know where to go. Henbit and dandelions started blooming in December, and now the trees are starting to bud out. In addition to these meager sources we have been feeding them sugar water throughout the winter. The sugar water gives them the energy to build the honeycomb up prior to the nectar flow. It's all about managing resources!
We've had miserable weather for most of February, but this week the sun finally won the war and our temperatures soared into the high 70's. The bees knew exactly what this meant, time to start laying drone bees and getting their workforce ready for the busy season. Suddenly the hives are full of bees and Bruce is busy making sure they have room to grow. Before we know it swarm season will be upon us. A hive can swarm for many reasons, but one of the signs Bruce needs to watch for is an overcrowding in the hives. It can sneak up on even an experienced beekeeper. I can't count the number of times Bruce has stormed in the back door yelling that he's got a swarm in a tree and he needs the Lemongrass essential oil. I many have gotten smarter through the years and made sure to stock up on Lemongrass a couple months ago!
So, that's where we are in Middle Georgia, but it's a different story in Northern Georgia where we have our other hives at the river. This past weekend we made a quick trip up there to open the camper for the year and check on the status of those hives. It was the first winter that we had bees at the river and weren't sure what to expect. The rule of thumb is to hope for the best and expect the worst. Well, I'm not sure what side we ended up on yet. Of the seven hives that went into winter 4 are still alive but we still may lose 2. The two hives that are iffy just don't have many bees. Bruce fed them some nectar supplement and is hoping for the best. The fact is some bees just aren't as intuitive. They waste resources by not stopping bee production early enough in the fall and aren't quick enough to kick out the drones. They also might eat through their food stores at a faster rate rather then rationing. Obviously Bruce will have to pick carefully when he chooses hives to move there in the next few weeks!
Keep your fingers crossed for the weak hives and eat more honey!! We've got to clear out more space to make room for the 2021 honey!!!