Yesterday it was 60+ degrees in Michigan, the first day in a few weeks that it was warm enough for the bees to be out. I made a whole quart of bee tea for the girls in hopes that they would indeed still be there.
I had been quite concerned about their seemingly small colony size last I had visited them - the day of the sanctuary's first Polar Plunge about three weeks ago. It was a warm day for February, sunny, yet crisp - not warm enough for the bees to be out, but okay it seemed to open the hive for feeding. When first going into the back of the hive I saw no one. It really scared me. But then I put my ear down into the hive and heard them humming away deep inside the upper part of the combs. I breathed a sigh of relief, left them the fresh jar of tea and closed them up quickly so not to chill them any more.
Over the next few weeks it felt too cold to open the hive. Id visit them, place my hands on the sides of their home and send whatever prayers, or energy I could for warmth and plenty of food stores. I tried to calm my fears over seeing no bees in the lower parts of the comb. But I kept wondering how many could possibly be huddled up inside the combs where I couldn't see them? From what I could see on the edges of the combs, there was no stored honey and no brood. Of course you may not expect to find so much on the edges in the deep of winter, but no signs of anything, even a few inches in, left me a bit worried. Now, if I had been inspecting each comb by pulling them out from the very start I probably would have known a lot more about the strength of the colony going into winter, but as I have shared I never did that step for a combination of reasons.. I wasn't ready, it felt too invasive, and I have been savoring all that I have been learning up to and including now. Maybe I'll start inspecting individual combs on my next hive? Or maybe I'll continue to observe from the edges, leaving them their inside privacy?
Anyway as I walked up to the hive today I burst into tears to see the girls alive and seemingly well, buzzing about their entrance way. A huge relief! On the cold days when I would visit the hive and put my hands on it to send them warming energy they kept "telling me" - as much as I can read invisible, non-verbal bee signals, that "they were okay", but I worried myself silly just the same. This is one of the many things they continue to help me with - to trust my instincts - that deep inner feeling and wisdom.
I sat down and took it all in once again - one of my most favorite spots. Look! Some were even coming into the hive with pollen!! A very light yellow, almost white pollen. That was super cool to see. I later asked Lana, our Conservation Steward at the land what might be in bloom this early and she said the maples were coming out, and maybe some birch! I'm so happy they have fresh pollen to gather for the new springtime babies!
Besides the pollen gatherers, others were busy housekeeping - bringing winter debris out to the edge of the hive to give it a heave-ho. I took the entrance reducer out to give them more room to work. They seemed happy with that. I left it out at their request, but will have to go back tomorrow to replace it as its getting chilly again.
Here are two short videos - I forgot to empty my camera card so not too much room left, but you'll get a sense of the activity going on, and you can see the quart of fresh bee tea (raw honey with a light infusion of organic chamomile and nettle tea)