Looking out my window today, I see a beautiful light blue sky and powdery snow covering the library’s courtyard. Peaceful. And yet Mother Nature is in the process of assembling the pieces of a powerful storm for this weekend, and we’re facing extra frigid temperatures tonight. It’s easy to forget that meteorologists say we are nearly two-thirds done with winter, as they define it. Best go upstairs and take a peek at the bees to see how they are doing.
Winter is an interesting time for bees. Summer and fall had them preparing for winter by building up their stores. But bees are efficient, and they manage their hive to make the best use of those stores over winter cold. Male drones are typically evicted before winter to reduce demand on those stores. As the summer workers die off, the Queen will lay eggs to produce a smaller colony of winter worker bees. Winter workers have a different physiology than summer workers; they are made to live through the winter. Summer workers may live only six weeks. The Queen will stop laying, and workers will cluster around her and shiver and flutter their wings to generate warmth and keep her warm. All this activity takes a lot of energy, and the winter bees will eat the honey stores built up over the warmer months. Bees are very clean by nature and will not relieve themselves in the hive, and instead, will take cleansing flights—when weather permits. Sadly bees can die if the weather stays too cold and they cannot get outside.
Our bees are looking pretty good. I see the Queen hanging out with her attendants. Keeping the Queen warm is not terribly difficult for the workers due to the hive being inside the library. The colony is smaller in number and not too active, but we are offering them a sugar-water solution should they need it. If I’m honest, I am looking forward to warm spring days and sunshine and seeing the bees take flight once again to meet the spring flowers.
We hope you’ll come in to see the bees in winter. They are upstairs—just take a right from the top of the stairs, or a left out of the elevator, and you’ll find them.
We just made the call to close the library tomorrow due to the winter storm on its way. We look forward to seeing you next week.