Monday, January 14, 2013

Goodbye snow

What: I went for a wonderful walk on Saturday morning with my friend, Kate, to check out her topbar beehive. Her bees were reluctant to come out when we first arrived, but by the time we left the sun was out and it was about 43 degrees. Her hive is in full sun and has a dark cover, so it must have warmed the hive up much higher than that. Her bees were flying with great relish! I can only imagine the relief of being able to fly after spending a month and a half cooped up in darkness.

Bee flyling, yellow blotches on snow are their poop
They spend their time on warm winter days cleaning shop and making poop flights, for lack of a better term. The little yellow splotches in the photos immediately above and below are bee poop. We were both surprised at how much poop a single bee can poop; it was like watching a great blue heron or bald eagle fly over head and unleash a torrent of poop. 

bee poop on surface of snow
Inside the hive, bees shiver to maintain heat. To fly a bee needs to be at about 85oF. It'll shiver and spike it's temperature to about 100o before taking off. If the weather outside is too cold, the bees won't make it very far. But their temperature can drop pretty low before they'll die. Bees on the inside of the hive that are on the outside of the cluster can have body temperatures as low as 41o. Below is one unfortunate bee. The dark bodies of the bees absorb the heat from the sun, so many had melted down into the snow.

When we inspected a couple of the bees that had flown and landed on the snow we found some varroa mites, which Kate wasn't too happy about. They look like shiny water pennies (a type of limpet). Below is the best my camera could do, they're about as big as a grain of sand so they're hard to spot.

Where: The Intervale

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