Spring in Alberta has brought welcome sunshine and warmth but unfortunately the affects of our winter were brutal. Abnormal temperatures on both sides of the freezing mark (high temperatures in January and low values in February) created a chain of events that many of our bees were unable to survive. The optimum temperature range for overwintering honey bees is 0 to +7°C . At these temperatures their metabolic rate is at its lowest and the least honey is consumed. Colder or warmer ambient temperatures increase their honey consumption dramatically. In January our bees were flying one third of the month and ate up at least half of their honey supply. February never saw plus temperatures so the bees, clustered tightly together to create warmth, weren’t even able to move around the hive to access their honey stash. The hives that perished were those that found themselves just out of reach of their life saving treasure. Mother nature will follow her own whims and the biggest beekeeping challenge is how to be better prepared the next time. But with every bad situation there are some positive points.
This time last year our hives were still snowbound! Now our surviving hives are already strong and well fed. The bees are enjoying warm temperatures and can be found foraging anything that resembles pollen. Sawdust and even coffee grounds give them some nutrients so don’t be surprised to find them raiding your compost until the first dandelions appear ?