4.27.23 Spring Bee Update

Hello friends,

I thought I’d slow things down a little after our busy April Break schedule, and talk about bees. I was doing some spring chores outside and noticed a bumble bee hanging onto the porch screening. She stayed there until after I finished my chores, looking a little tired and vulnerable. I thought of our own hive in the library and how much I enjoy their company, and gently persuaded Ms. Bumble into a small box along with a bottle cap full of fresh sugar water. An hour or so had passed when I checked on her next, and she had left her temporary shelter. I hope she is well and busy doing bumble bee things.

Our own Skidompha honey bees are on my mind these days. Spring is a critical and busy time for them. Our colony has officially “woken up” from its winter somnolence and has begun its own spring chores. Our queen is laying again, depositing a mix of worker and drone eggs that will mature into larva after a few days. She needs to mate with multiple drones only once in her life to gain the necessary genetic diversity to create a lifetime’s worth of eggs. Nurse bees–younger worker bees–feed and tend to the larva for roughly a week and then cap off the larva’s cell with wax. The larva then spend the next ten days or so maturing into an adult bee. At twenty one days an adorable, fluffy, adult bee will shakily emerge from its cell and begin its chores in the hive. Successful population renewal is crucial to the survival of the colony. 

Concurrently, worker bees will be flying out and foraging for nectar and pollen to feed the new young bees. As the sun gets stronger and the weather gets warmer, flights become more active and numerous and you will see more bees exiting and entering the hive at their perch on Main Street. I love taking a few minutes to watch those frenetic flights. Bees flying out so confidently with such an important mission. The colony is exceptionally vulnerable at this time, and risks abound. Without a healthy, laying queen, a healthy population of workers, and solid source of nectar and pollen, the colony will not survive. 

This virtuous circle, new bees born requiring more food, which require more bees to gather, which provides more sustenance for more bees… continues perhaps and until the colony grows too large for the hive. Should that happen the bees will swarm. Workers rear a new queen to take the place of the original, and the original queen and approximately half the colony leave to pursue a new location to start a new hive. Swarming is a natural and amazing thing for bees, and helps promote population growth and diversity. How the bees choose their new hive sight is an amazingly cool process, and a good topic for our next bee checkin.

Be well,

Matthew Graff
Executive Director
Skidompha Public Library