Yearning for Spring
This weekend we rejoiced to see signs of life from our beehives. The temperature had finally warmed up enough to encourage the bees to leave the hive in order to do some early scouting flights and spring cleaning. We also saw some of them down at our little creek, taking sips of the cool, clear water. While spring is not officially here in the Washington DC area, signs heralding its arrival are everywhere including the daffodils and snowdrops bursting into bloom, flowers emerging from the tips of redbud trees, and cherry trees laden with heavy, fragrant blossoms.
Early spring is a critical time for a beehive to grow in numbers and strength. The bees are ramping up activity for the busy pollen and nectar collecting months in late spring and early summer. I was able to get a careful look at our hives and discovered that they each appeared to have a good supply of brood, ensuring a healthy source of future workers. It’ll be important for our hives to reach their maximum strength before the nectar begins to flow. I can help the bees do this by giving them a simple syrup solution during the month of March. By feeding them now, the bees will be stimulated to rear a greater quantity of brood, forage more widely for pollen, and take better care of the queen during the hot summer months. Bees that are well fed early on in the year will begin storing the honey they make as surplus instead of consuming it to complete their spring build-up. We can then harvest this honey later in the year for our Bee America customers.
In January and February I did some work in my woodshop to prepare more frames of foundation for the hive, which can be used by the bees for storing honey in the beeswax combs. I’ll soon be able to add those to the hives and replace the frames that they depleted honey from over the winter. I love the smell of freshly cut wood and beeswax—to me it symbolizes fresh hope for a good bee season this year. Caring for bees is a bittersweet endeavor given their short and intense life cycle and the fragile balance they strike with nature.
From a global perspective and beyond the protected environ of own apiary, the external pressures honeybees face due to the loss of their natural habitat to development, the ever-present threat of Colony Collapse Disorder, the dangers of exposure to pesticides all imperil the future survival of the species. While I am optimistic that the efforts of dedicated scientists, environmentalists and beekeepers will be able to develop solutions to these problems, I am grateful for every day I see a honeybee fly by—knowing she is oblivious to my worries and doing exactly what she was created to do.
“The happiness of the bee and the dolphin is to exist.
For man it is to know that and to wonder at it.”
Close-up picture of honeycomb laden with honey in a wooden frame