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This is Spring???

Here is a picture of what my daffodils look like today. I always say don't open your hives until the daffodils bloom. Of, course there is a common sense element to this. When the blooming daffodils are buried in snow, perhaps one should not open the hives! Let's just say I have yet to open my hives. I feel the need to also talk about feeding at this point. We have all gotten the message that we should have opened up our hives and also should be feeding our bees to keep them alive because of this cold snap. Here is my perspective on that, and what I have done in my own hives.

Here is a picture of one of my hives today. Bees were evident and the temperature was 33 degrees. This made me happy because I had a discussion with another beekeeper a few days earlier who had lost a colony that had successfully overwintered. It had been bringing in pollen and it had plenty of honey. He knows it didn't starve. However, he noticed the lack of activity and checked the hive and found a lot of brood and the bees all over the hive, dead. I have had this happen in the past, as well and I think I know what happened. The queen had produced a large amount of brood, which the bees needed to cover to keep them warm. But then it got cold and they needed to cluster to stay alive. Apparently this hive chose to stay over the brood and they died. They were Italians, and I have noticed this behavior is more common with them. This beekeeper could not have prevented this. The bees were just not adapted to the changing environment they must adapt to in order to survive in Michigan. I have found the Carniolans do a better job of this. However, as a beekeeper, if you feed in the spring after the bees have started to find a small amount of forage, you could unwittingly create a similar situation in your hives. The queen lays more eggs when food is abundant. By feeding sugar water, we create an artificial honey flow, so the queen misinterprets the season and lays more brood than the hive can cover and safely cluster if the weather turns cold suddenly. If we let the bees feed themselves, the queen will tailor the amount of brood to the amount of available forage (especially the Carniolans, they are better at this), and are more likely to survive the weather extremes which are unfortunately so common to our area. So my advice is, DON'T FEED right now. Don't open your hives, either! Later this week when it gets nice, then we can safely open our hives and see how they are doing.

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