Yesterday morning, the ambient temperature outside was 4* F.
The hive was a toasty 82*.
We know this because the first thing I do each morning after I jump (or stagger) out of bed is aim my phone at the precise point where it receives Bluetooth reception from the hive. (It’s right under a spot where a bird made a small mess, which means I can never wash that window.)
Anyway, 82*. What a relief!
We had been bracing ourselves for the inevitable truth that the bees wouldn’t make it through winter.The daily readings had been dropping steadily since cold weather began until they were skirting the low 40s.
You see, bees die when their bodies hit about 40*. To survive winter, they form a “bee ball” and vibrate their bodies to generate heat. (See HoneyBeeSuite for a better explanation.) When there aren’t enough bees, they can’t generate enough heat, and the hive will die.
Between the Yellow Jackets and the Varroa, we weren’t sure we had enough bees.
Still, we clung to the hope that maybe the bees hadn’t reached the part of the box with the temperature sensor. Also, from time to time, bee corpses appeared on the “porch” and in front of the hive, leading us to believe they were still moving around inside, trying to keep order.
Or it could have been the bodies of bees mistakenly went out for some reason and froze.
The hive scale was also showing a slow decrease in weight, but we’re new at this and weren’t sure how much to read into this, though we hoped it meant the girls were eating.
We just didn’t know.
Then, just a few nights ago, the temperature shot up an amazing 20 degrees overnight!
Glory bees! They’re still alive in there!
I’m trying not to get too excited. This doesn’t mean they’ll make it through winter. Many bees make it through the cold part of winter, but die in March because they run out of food.
But for now, they’re okay.
Side note and catch-up time: I was stunned to see my last post was all the way back in November! I apologize for the neglect, and proffer this small catch-up. We managed to move the hive away from where the Yellow Jackets appear to nest and where we hope it will get a little more sun. As part of the procedure The Engineer also shortened the legs of the stand and set up the scale. Then, on the last warm day in early December we seized the opportunity to replace the full honey super, and re-wrap the whole thing.
If we get a warm spell in January or February (above 50), we’ll take a peek and add sugar patties if they are near the top of the hive.
We’ve also learned a good snowfall can add ten pounds to the hive’s weight.
On an unrelated note — though maybe it’s an excuse for my lapse — we’ve been busy cracking black walnuts.
Yes, they fell in November, but you’d be surprised how many nuts two aging trees can produce. Every year, we think they’re dead, and every other year, they surprise us with a crop. This year, it was a bumper one. Harvesting them is a major pain, but that’s a post for another day.
Meanwhile, I hope you can follow our bees’ example and stay warm!
One more thing, if you’re really interested, you can check the temperatures (and in some cases, the weight) of hives around the country by visiting Beecounted.org.
Update: It’s -5* this morning, and the girl’s are still at 77*.