One minute we think we've left the cold months behind us, the next we're blasted with wintry conditions - even here in Devon. It's March and I'm worried about the honey bees. The colonies themselves will be in their winter clusters snug and warm in their hives keeping their core hive temperature at around 35oC whatever the weather but while the cold snap continues, they won't be foraging outside but relying on their dwindling food stores.
The girls themselves won't venture out of the hives to forage until the temperature outside reaches at least 13oC and when the temperature rises to 19oC that's when there'll be a lot of activity with the comings and goings of the honey bees gathering their nectar and pollen.
As a beginner beekeeper I've got an awful lot to learn but I do know that pretty soon (if some haven't already) the bees will be waiting for the weather to warm to crack on with spring cleaning. This is one of the chores that the worker bees do coming out of winter to clean their hives in readiness for the food supplies to be brought back. A tidy colony is also a healthy colony.
What I have been learning is the distance at which honey bees will travel for them to forage. This extends to a radius of two miles, although this can be extended 2-3 times the distance from the hive if bees return and let the rest of them know there's a good source of food. They communicate direction and distance by means of a round dance or a waggle dance. However, the further they travel, their short little lives are reduced even further. This doesn't include the drones (boys) or the queen, but the workers (all girls) practically work to death. During the main honey flow season, these lovable little black and yellow bees only live for about six weeks before they collapse with exhaustion in their efforts to ensure their colony has enough food to sustain its well-being.
This has got me thinking that before the old beehives at work are moved to a more convenient location for the beekeeper (me!), I really need to ensure that the bee fly zone has sufficient sources of food throughout the bees' calendar. This is especially important because The Donkey Sanctuary is based in Devon and located a short distance from the coast which limits the total fly zone area if I was to draw a circle around where the hives will be.... food for thought!