Bee Report — Mid-Winter Check Up

It has been a few months since we moved the bees up to Madison. You can read the account here. The generous Madison beekeeper who let us overwinter our hives in her yard, Jeanne, had some bad news: her hives had died out.

Bees swarming the hive entrance.

I went to check on the institute’s hives yesterday. Both hives had a pile of dead bees in front of their doors, but this isn’t a problem. Throughout the winter, bees finish their normal lifecycles and die inside the hive. Another set of bees whose job it is to “bring out yer dead,” called mortuary bees, drag the dead bees to the front of the hive and just shove them out the door. In the summer, these bees carry their dead comrades away from the hive.

I pushed some of the dead away from the entry way and the guards instantly swarmed the door. Within a minute, over a dozen bees were swarming the entrance. They are active because the last few days have been warm here.

I also did the traditional hive-tap check: I leaned over, put my ear on the hive body and gave two sharp knocks. I heard the colony inside give a good hearty buzz. I also lifted the back side of the hive to test the weight and they both felt pretty heavy, meaning the bees have enough honey for the rest of the winter.  They have a few more months until it is flying weather (above 55°F), but let’s keep our fingers crossed.

In sum, the institute’s two hives look good and strong going into the second half of winter. I am glad to have checked, since I think about the little buggers each morning as I drizzle some of their honey over my porridge. Stay tuned for more.

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