A Tough Spring for the Bees.

The spring weather in the Northwest this year is no easy ride for the bees.    The few fickle days of warming in March, then dramatic cooling again, persistent rain, wind and general cool temperatures, still dipping into the 30’s at night all combine to create multiple problems for the bees.    Bees need about 45 F to fly at all, and do better when it is over 50 F.   Rain is a major problem too, and when combined with chilly 40ish- 50ish temperatures they can get caught away from the hive and never make it back.   Add to this the fact that the plant world carries on with its splendid bloom cycle, showing beautiful spring color all over the city, yet so far the blossoms offer mostly pollen.   Pollen is a protein source for bees, and an important part of their nutrition, but nectar provides the carbohydrates they need to burn for energy.   Nectar flow requires warmth. How much warmth varies somewhat from plant to plant and sunshine can greatly compensate for lower air temperatures.   So far this year, despite the fragrant air and lovely colors, there is little nectar for the bees.      On the other hand, many of the weak colonies from last year are already dead, and the strong ones can hunker down and live off their stores.  It’s taxing for them though, because once the queen starts laying, those brood must be kept at a constant 95 F for 21 days.   The energy demands on the workers in generating such warmth are considerable, and they need the carbohydrates from honey to do this.   So lets hope for warm temperatures, and if you have a colony, tip the hive to test for weight and feed them if they feel light.

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