Today is March the seventh. The weather is just beautiful with temperatures in the upper fifties, the bees are flying and yes, they are bringing in pollen! I checked my notes and this day last year was also the first day I saw pollen coming in.
I always look forward to this day and consider it the first day of the beekeeping season. I have been feeding pollen replacement for three weeks now and am seeing good brood development for early March. Naturally the stronger colonies have larger brood nests than the weak ones. I opened some hives to see how much pollen they were storing and it looks like they are feeding it out as fast as it is coming in. They really do prefer natural pollen when it is available but at this time of the year, the natural pollen supply can be sporadic at best. This is why I always keep MegaBee patties on all colonies till I see several frames of freshly stored pollen in the hives and good foraging weather ahead. In southern New England, we are blessed with an abundant and varied supply of pollen during the spring. The problem is that, especially in the last several years, we get these long stretches of cold, cloudy, and rainy weather. Nothing will shut down brood production like a dearth in pollen intake. I need to have large strong colonies for late April. This will allow me to make divides and have adequate number of colonies for Apple pollination in early May. No brood, no bees!
It is now St Patrick’s Day and I want to finish this post! We just have had five days of cold, rainy, and very windy weather. I sure am glad that my bees had pollen substitute to feed the brood. If they hadn’t they would have shut the queen down and possibly cannibalized the young brood. This is just what I was getting to in the above paragraphs. This week looks to have sunny skies and mid to upper sixties. There is a lot of pollen coming in again and they are taking sugar syrup. I try to feed a gallon of syrup a week until the maples start to blossom then I watch the weather. If the nectar flow stops then I resume feeding.
I started out by talking about signs of spring. It always amazes me how fast things change this time of the year. One day the lakes and ponds are frozen and the next it seems they are all clear. It seems like things are early this year, The Fox Sparrows flew North in mid February which is two to three weeks earlier than normal. They nest in the far north and I guess that they follow the snow line. We have not had much snow pack in Connecticut while just over the border in New York and down to the Middle Atlantic States , they have been just hammered with snow! Let them have it, I have been done with snow since New Years Day!
Two weeks ago, Charlene and I went out to the Natchaug Forest to photograph Skunk Cabbage coming up. Skunk cabbage is usually the first source of pollen in this area, followed by the Silver Maples and then some of the poplars. The next group is the Red Maples and Norway Maples. This group also provides the first nectar, sometimes quite copiously! I love driving down residential streets where Norway Maples have been planted and when in bloom many times you can smell the nectar. Lately I have been seeking out these areas for wintering yards. They are a major boost in early April and some times the bees will store several frames of honey in the brood nest. This becomes their insurance policy and then I can super up the on the first of May for the Autumn Olive. I am hoping for a good May honey flow this year. I am all out of my honey and will need to buy some until I can harvest some of my own. This year I plan on harvesting some as soon as it is ready instead of waiting until August like I usually do.
The next two months will be a continuous parade of renewal and rebirth. Each day brings something new sprouting or a new bird coming north to nest. Meanwhile, the bee colonies will keep expanding, preparing to swarm and then store honey for the next long winter. We beekeepers will have our hands full with staying ahead of not only the bees but also the stresses that conspire to do our hives in. Make sure that starvation or poor nutrition are not one of them. I need to deal with that other sign of spring, INCOME TAXES!!!!