A lot of folks might think that a mild, even warm January would be good for the bees, but that’s not necessarily the case. Even though we see the bees out flying around on sunny days, there is nothing for them to gather nectar from. Warm temps tend to cause the queen to begin laying more brood than would be normal for this time of year. More brood means more work for the rest of the bees as they try to keep them (the brood) warm. It also means more bees in the hive and that they will be going through their stores much faster.
As the queen lays more brood, thereby taking up more space on the frame the bees use the honey and pollen stored immediately adjacent to the brood. When temps drop, as they surely will, the bees don’t move about the hive and stay put in an attempt to keep the brood warm. If it stays cold they can starve to death since the food stores nearby have been used up.
Basically the milder weather gets the hive up and running to early in the season. So today I was out to visit my girls and add some pollen supplement for them to feed on. It helps with the raising of brood. It was 50 degrees out, which means I don’t completely open up the hive, but just remove the inner cover and slide the narrow strip of pollen patty into the middle of the bees that are on top of the frames. That way if they can’t move between frames for their stored food, the food supplement is right where they are at.
I had put food in two hives and with the cool temps the bees were a little sluggish and quite docile. However, at the third hive, when I was pushing the piece of patty into the cluster of bees, one decided I was just a little too close for comfort and stung the middle finger on my right hand. I got the stinger out quickly, thereby reducing the amount of venom that was being pumped in but all afternoon I felt the itch travel from my finger, to the back of my hand and all the way up to my elbow. At that point it pretty much went away and I’m feeling no ill effect tonight.
Tomorrow I will be looking to set up some inside feeders that will also give the bees a little more of a boost. We nearly always get a good blast of winter returning for a last fling sometime in February and I hope to help them prepare with a little supplemental feeding. Normally I’m just doing research on the web this time of year so I can bee prepared to take on the coming season or just thumbing through catalogs looking at equipment. It will be a while before the bees fly on a regular basis, but there will bee the first pollen available to them sometime in February when the aspen, willows and birch begin to bud.
First time I’ve ever been stung in January.