No, not quite! But we are getting closer — the days are getting longer and the temps are slowly but surely beginning to rise. February is typically the hardest month to get through trying to keep honey bees alive. A lot of research has been done to figure out why. Is it because the temps can vary so largely? Is it because of diseases or pests? Is it because of moisture or lack of food stores? Is it because of chemicals in the bees’ honey, pollen and comb? Studies continue, but in the meantime we try our best to keep the girls alive.
It’s hard to determine what is happening in bee hives in February. You shouldn’t open your hive unless the temp is above 50 degrees. Then it’s still a quick in and out process to replace food stores. February is typically when Wisconsin will see its greatest colony losses. In 2013, beekeepers experienced an 80-85 percent colony loss per University of Wisconsin Stevens Point research. This is huge!
As the saying goes, “A wet bee is a dead bee.” Moisture is an issue, especially when Wisconsin temps can swing between the highs and lows of a single day by many degrees. This is probably the easiest issue to control, outside of feeding your bees. There are many solutions to moisture control, find one that fits your needs. Honey Bee Ware offers consulting and product solutions.
Diseases or pests
Winter in Wisconsin finds mice wanting to locate a warm, dry location. What better place to live than in a bee hive? The bees are clustered so they are free to move right in. This will wreak havoc on your frames in your lower brood box. To prevent rodents from moving into your hives, be sure to put mouse guards on your entrances. This is a cheap but effective way to prevent rodents from moving in.
Diseases are a little different to handle. If you prepared your hive to be free of the varroa mite in the fall, you are well on your way to having a stronger hive to survive the winter. This is true with brood diseases as well. To know if you should treat your hive in the fall for diseases, the Wisconsin DATCP apiary program offers free hive inspections May through October. Inspections include the identification of common pests and diseases as well as a visual check for exotic pests or diseases. Well worth checking into.
Until next time, “bee” happy!