Bees break cluster and actively foraging but more cold weather on its way

ian Beekeeping Calendar , ,

Bees break cluster and actively foraging but more cold weather on its way

Temperature was up to 12 Degree C today, with light winds and sunshine.  All colonies were very busy in the apiary, with lots of spring like behaviour, including actively foraging.  Still too cold to open up the hives but a peak through the perspex crown boards shows that the clusters are dispersed and bees are busy around the brood nest.  There are still capped stores they have not consumed and they have taken very little of the fondant I gave them in February.

There is more cold weather on its way next week, with snow forecast for the weekend.  So, I have decided to leave them in winter mode for a bit longer, with small entrances, insulation and fondant in place.  I won’t be stimulating them with weak sugar syrup as I planned, when I was expecting a “normal” spring.  The oil seed rape will also be feeling the cold start to spring, so the bees may be about to get the timing right all by themselves!

What pollen are the bees actively foraging ?

So far the bees have been foraging on snowdrops, with the characteristic bright orange pollen load visible on many of the returning foragers.  This was also the case today but there are also a number of foragers coming back with their pollen baskets full of an off-white, grey, cream colour pollen.  I have had a good look around the area and looked up white pollen in Rex Sawyers Pollen Identification guide but so far have not been able to identify what it is.

I have highlighted two returning foragers, with blue arrows on the photograph, showing the two different colours of pollen coming in today.

What behaviour did I see at the entrances, today ?

The bees were very busy today and were starting to queue up around the small 25mm x 7mm winter entrances, which only just coped with the traffic.  There was lots of orientation flights going on, especially early on in the day.  Bees would emerge and fly facing the hive in a circular and zig-zag path, at increasing distances, before heading off.

One of the other behaviours I saw for the first time this season was bees standing in a characteristic fanning posture, standing on all six legs with rear legs at full height, with abdomens raised and their nasanov glands open.   This behaviour tries to establish a plume of phermones, from the hive which act as a homing beacon for returning foragers.

I have highlighted two foragers, with blue arrows, that were fanning at the entrance in this way today.

Next steps with more cold weather on its way

I’m planning to leave the bees in winter mode with snow planned for next weekend.  They have done a great job of surviving this far and are well supplied with fondant, are dry and well insulated.  I look forward to seeing how they do after the next cold spell and I’m getting ready for weather that will allow me to do my spring inspections and cleans.

If you have any suggestions on what the mystery white pollen is please let me know and if you like this post please comment or like and/or share on facebook.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Ian

    Nice to hear that your bees are alive and foraging. Interesting what you wrote about the Rape being delayed due to the weather and so the build up of the colony being at the right rate to have a foraging force ready. A really good read.

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