If I was to ask you to imagine a garden of honey bees, you would probably conjure up images of brightly coloured flowers such as Poppies, Sunflowers and Asters.
You would probably feel the warmth of a sunny, breezeless summer day and you may even start to smell the roses.
Last year when we examined our hive in the early spring all we saw was frozen bees. There was still plenty of honey and pollen reserves so they had not starved to death which is often the case. Neither did they appear to have any disease that may have caused their demise, so we can only assume that with the fluctuations in temperatures that we experienced during January and February 2013, they must have started to spread out from their warm cluster and then froze to death.
Determined this winter not to let our new bees come to the same end, we wrapped the hive to help keep the drafts out and the warmth in. We also wanted to ensure that they had enough food to get them off to a good start in the spring, and so rather than harvest the honey left from our previous hive, we stored the frames for the purpose of sustaining our new bees through their first winter.
In October we placed these reserved frames into a third super; leaving our bees with three supers rather than the customary two.
After a worker bee hatches and emerges from it’s cell it remains in the hive for approximately 8 days. Then on a warm, sunny, calm afternoon she, along with hundreds of other young bees, will take her first flight.
She will not fly far but will orientate herself to her surroundings by repeatedly flying in circles around the hive and dancing with her sisters backwards and forwards towards the hive entrance. Langstroth, who is often referred to as the forefather of modern beekeeping, describes the mood beautifully in his publication ‘Langstroth on the Hive and Honey Bee’ (First Published 1853)
‘The first flight of young worker-bees is easily remembered when once seen. It usually takes place in the afternoon of a sunny day. They first walk on the platform in a hesitating manner and then take flight. Their humming, joyous and peaceable circles to reconnoitre the location of their home, recalls to memory the gay playing of children in front of the school-house door.’