Went out to the hives today & there was “bee poop” everywhere! I know you are probably saying “yuk.. that’s gross!”.. but when I see see bee poop this time of year, I’m thrilled. Here’s a picture of what I saw.. the yellow snow is the bee poop
The reason I am very happy when I see bee poop in February is that it means at least some of the bees hives are still alive. Bees are very hygienic creatures so they do not go to the bathroom in the hive unless they are very sick. Unfortunately, this becomes difficult for them in the winter because they can’t fly if it is too cold outside (instead they need to stay clustered together to keep warm). Because they can’t fly & they don’t want to go to bathroom inside the hive, they “hold it” until a day that is a little warmer to take a cleansing flight. If it stays too cold for too long & the bees can’t take cleansing flights, they run the risk of getting dysentery.
On a warm day like today (low 40s), I try to check out the apiary in hopes of seeing lots of yellow snow (which I did!), and also hoping I don’t see lots of brown streaks at the hive entrances (which I didn’t) Brown streaks at the hives entrance means the bees have probably developed dysentary. I also often see dead bees – if you look closely the black dot on the right side of the picture is a dead bee. This can also be a good sign, as long as there aren’t too many of them. Typically, these are workers that are at the end of their life. They will leave the hive to take a cleansing flight & instead of going back to the hive, they will stay outside & die so they don’t bring pathogens back.
As of today, all 5 of my regular hives are alive!.. I lost the 2 NUCs in Dec (I wasn’t really surprised as they seemed weak heading into winter & it is also the first year I’ve tried to winter over NUCs).
February is always a tough month for the bees. 1) It is cold. 2) They are getting low on food. 3) Later in the month they will start raising brood to replace the old “winter” bees and to get ready for foraging. Once they start raising brood, they need to keep the inside of the hive @90-95F which takes alot of energy! I’ve given each of the hives some fondant & some pollen patties just in case they have used up all of their honey & pollen stores.
For the rest of Feb & March, I’ll be checking the hives at least weekly to see if they’ve touched the food I gave them (if they have it means they have no other food in the hive) & also to see if I hear “buzzing” (you don’t always see the bees because they may be deep in the hive – but you can hear them!).
so cross your fingers.. we’ve only got to get through another few weeks & they will be able to start collecting pollen!