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First Log Entries of the Year

This has surely been the weirdest January that I have lived through in Richmond, Va – it is certainly the warmest in my memory (which really isn’t saying much…) We are getting frequent high’s in the 50’s, with occasional high’s in the 60’s, while Alaska and areas to the Northwest are going through one of the more brutal Winters on record! Regardless, we’ve finally been getting a few days with high’s in the 40’s again and this provides an interesting entry for the beekeeping journal.

One of the best things that I did as an early beekeeper was to begin making journal entries on my hives. It started with simple notes, such as date, weather, hive temperament and any unusual observations. As time went on, I added items (and removed some), including # of frames of brood, # of frames of resources, pests, number of bees with deformed wing virus, and the list goes on. It’s amazing how valuable this resource has been. Occasionally reviewing the old entries of a particularly strong hive or even a weak hive has been very educational. You are able to step back and view the big picture, instead of focusing (and frequently fretting!) on the individual events of the day. This has proven particularly invaluable in identifying the best hives to breed new colonies from.

One of the things that you can observe in a normal January is ‘Russian’ behavior. The Russian strain of Apis mellifera is known to fly at lower temperatures than the other honey bee strains. I like this trait and make a note of which hives fly in the upper 30’s (something I rarely see, except on a really sunny day) and the 40’s. All honey bees should be out doing their business once we hit the 50’s, but the lower temperatures are always of interest. Flying early is a benefit, in my opinion. I view it as ‘good work-ethic’, as it usually means they are out the door earlier in the morning to collect nectar in the early Spring (when temps can be low on occasion) and may work a bit later. It’s just an opinion, but I’ll keep tracking it to see if I find trends down the road.

2 comments to First Log Entries of the Year

  • We’re most often in the low to mid 50’s at the moment here in London, UK. The bees are out collecting pollen now.

    I’ve heard some beekeepers say they want their colonies to stay in and conserve their energy and food reserves at this time of year rather than start foraging. Personally I’m not sure whether staying in or out is best for the bees. They can only fly a maximum of 800km in total before the glycogen reserves in their muscles run out, so flying more does shorten their lifespan, but if the queen is laying strongly early on in the year maybe that doesn’t matter so much. Either way I think it’s a good idea to keep an eye on their stores and feed if necessary.

  • I have also heard folks worrying about our weather, but it is focused moreso on the possibility that all this flying around (instead of being in a cluster) makes them eat more. So, there is a concern that the bees will run out of food before the first Spring plants begin to bloom. I have no opinion on this yet, as I am still observing (but, I am watchful, thanks to their warnings!)

    I have been out in my hives, even breaking frames (something I do not recommend in Jan for the new beekeeper) to see what was going on. As of a week or so ago, everyone (that I checked) looked good and all hives had a decent weight.

    But, the key will be late February. That’s the time to check. A ton of bees starve in late Feb in our area (Zone 7), when the ramp up is really kicking in.

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