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Our Honeybees Survived the Winter

Last fall, we installed extra ventilation in our beehives and converted their honey supers into quilt boxes to place at the top, providing added insulation and moisture control inside the hive. As a result, for the first time since we became beekeepers, our honeybees were equipped to survive the harsh cold of winter. We are so excited to see them coming out of their hives with the warmer spring weather, foraging for nectar and pollen.

As I stand looking at the hives, I can see bees flying back to the entrances, the pollen saddlebags on their legs full of bright orange pollen. The bees have especially enjoyed the grape hyacinth growing in our flower beds.

The bees also love the purple deadnettle and white chickweed flowers. There are many flowering cherry and plum trees around us, and the maple trees are putting off nectar and pollen. These are just a few of the flowers blooming around us. It is truly a smorgasbord for the honeybees this time of year, and it only gets better as the weather continues to warm. 

We ordered two more Langstroth-style beehives from Mann Lake Bee Supply because, if both hives continue to show increased activity, we anticipate they will swarm in late spring or early summer. A swarm occurs when there is no more room in the hive and the season is early enough that they can continue growing in numbers. They produce a second queen and then divide up, with 10,000 bees and the new queen going out to find a new place to live. If that happens to both our hives, we'll go from having two hives to having four. 

Even if our own bees don't swarm, we could always capture a neighboring swarm if we set out our empty hives for them. Basically, each empty hive is a complete hive with frames included, but the frames do not have honey on them. We've been learning about capturing swarms and I'm looking forward to giving it a try. It's a simple process; you don't actually go out and scoop up bees (which is what I always thought was involved). Instead, the swarm finds the empty hive, and the bees go into it on their own. Once they are all in, you wait a couple days, and then you swap out some empty frames with frames filled out with honey so they have adequate food and nutrition to sustain them (this is much better for them than sugar water). The frames of honey can come from our existing hives. We actually have eight frames of honey in our freezer that we can thaw out and use for them.