Finally the dandelions have bloomed! With the sun shining today, our girls are out to get some nectar! This excited honey bee looks like she's doing the splits on the flower, holding on as she sucks up some nectar in her tongue. Did you know that a bee's tongue is a tube? They use it like a straw to suck up the nectar from a flower. Then the nectar goes into their 'honey' stomach and mixes with a magical enzyme that starts the process of turning it into honey. When they get back to the hive, they place it up into one of the cells. Now it's time for them to fan their wings to get the perfect temperature in the hive. The honey will start to lose moisture and become more sticky. Once it's just right they cover the cell with a cap of beeswax. Kinda like we preserve foods by sealing them in a jar.
Look how hungry she is! She's got her whole face buried into the dandelion. Please rethink weeding your dandelions as they are the first and only food source after the snow melts away. While beekeepers can feed their bees, other wild pollinators are reliant on this food source as well. Please Bee Kind!
Our bees have successfully made it through a very long and harshly cold winter yet again! The good news is that we will have some honey sooner than last year! Ciarán went into the hives mid March to check on them and to give them some well deserved food.
Many people ask how we help them through the winter. Honeybees are not native to Canada and so they need a little extra warmth over the winter months as they adapt. Here you can see that we wrap four hives together on a slab with black insulation, made specially for bee hives. Ciarán is checking to see how the bees survived the winter and is feeding them fondant sugar and pollen patties to get through the last month of cold weather.
Look at the hives behind my husband. One has a pile of dead bees outside of the entrance. This is thanks to the worker bees who have cleaned out the dead from the bottom of the hive. In the winter they carry the dead bees to the bottom of the hive and leave them there until it is warm enough to carry them out. We all have our way of spring cleaning and bees are very clean by nature.
We were delighted as well to open the hives late April to discover that the bees ate little of our pollen patties and fondant as they still had honey reserves from the fall! This could be a good thing, but it could also mean that a lot of the population died off and so not as much food was eaten. In a few hives this was true and we've combined them to help them off to a good start this season. Now we are in the full swing of things and bees are hungry for sugar syrup! So we feed weekly until the dandelions pop up!
Ciarán has built a water fountain in front of our garage so the bees have something to drink. They rely heavily on any pools of water that they can find to hydrate. You may come across some dead bees in bird baths or dog water dishes, these are the sad few that fell in. Bees are not to fear near these water pools as they are busy trying to get a drink, usually on a hot day. In fact we fill up the fountain daily while they buzz around us without any beekeeper gear on. They wouldn't bite the hands that serve them, naturally. ;)
Can you spot the bees in the fountain picture below?