Here we are in the middle of winter. There is not much going on with the bees this time of year. They stay snug in their hives in a tight cluster feeding on honey while they endure the cold days of February. They do stay warm enough though- they are able to generate heat by shivering their wing muscles or abdomen muscles (I have heard both) and can keep the inside of the cluster 90 degrees Fahrenheit (that's 32 degrees Celsius) even in the bitter cold. Amazing! Isn't it?
We have had a few snow storms blow through in the last couple of weeks. Here is what the hives look like right now.
You may be wondering about the hive on the far right and asking why I lefter her to over winter with just one deep hive body. Well, that requires some explanation....
Last spring I started that hive with a three pound package of Russian hybrid bees. I had heard that they can produce more honey than other varieties because they are able to work in cooler temperatures. That should translate into working earlier in the morning and later into the evening. I found that this was not the case. I did find however, that Russian hybrids tend to more aggressive than our other bees have been. Not that they bothered us in the garden or near the hive, but there was no way I could ever enter the hive without my veil and gloves. I would have been stung to death. They were not at all like the other two hives which have been so calm I could get through the entire hive without being bothered.
This fall I decided to take all the honey I could from the Russian hybrids, not feed them, and let the hive die out over the winter. The plan is now to buy a new Italian queen this spring and split one of the existing hives into the Russian hybrid hive. I ended up leaving only four deep frames in one box- I didn't extract those frames because they were partially full of brood.
As I knocked on the side of each hive today I heard the buzzing of bees in all three- including the Russians! They certainly do seem to be hardy.
I suppose I ought to make some bee candy to make sure that Ida and Georgia (the too desirable hives) will have enough to make it through the next few months until the dandelions start blooming. Can't wait!