Rising temperatures and more daylight has everyone excited. We made it through another winter, and it is time to start thinking about flowers and gardens and honey! I met a young girl today who was full of questions about bees. She was very worried about the queens in our beehives and wondered if any were still alive after the winter. Long story short, the bees DO survive the winter (see our very first blog) and when spring hits they get busy.
There’s a reason parents talk about the birds and the bees! This is the time of year when the queen’s mating and egg production kicks into overdrive. This accomplishes two goals: (1) it increases the population within the hive so that honey production can begin when the first blooms appear and (2) it creates so much of a crowd that part of the colony will swarm and establish a new colony elsewhere. The “old” queen goes with the swarm and her daughter takes her place as the new queen in the original hive. Do not be afraid if you see a swarm of bees in the springtime! They are simply looking for a new home and will not bother you.
As those first spring blossoms start to appear the worker bees buckle down. A single bee can visit 2,000 flowers in a single day! They make return trips to the hive throughout their travels because they can’t carry all that pollen and nectar at once. The workers also collect water for the hive. Bees need water for several reasons including digestion, diluting food storage, and humidity control inside the hive.
This is the time of the year when humans can really help (or hurt) the bee population. Some of the first flowers to appear are dandelions and they provide a lot of nectar early in the season before other flowers appear. Unfortunately, they are often treated as weeds and destroyed. The number one way you can support the bee population in your area is by leaving the dandelions alone for as long as possible, or even plant a dandelion patch somewhere in your yard!