Spring Time in the Rockies


March 27, 2004

It must be spring time in the Rockies.  Last week it was T shirt weather, the bees were house-cleaning and looking for nectar and pollen to feed their expanding brood nests.   At 6:30 AM it was chilly enough that we were able to relocate a couple of colonies of bees without smoking them, or even suiting up with veil and gloves.  Just about the time we got the colonies settled in their new homes it snowed briefly.  Then a couple of hours of cool sunshine allowed the bees to reorient to their new home, resetting their navigation tools. Sun and snow in a single afternoon makes for a great spring day in the Rockies.

The bees need little attention over the winter months.  As the days get longer and warmer however, it's time to get reacquainted with the colonies.  A quick hefting at the rear of the hive gives an indication as to whether or not the colony has sufficient stores left to make it to the dandelion bloom which is only a couple of good snow or spring rains away.  Strong and weak colonies are indentified and a game plan is made as to how to combine and split colonies in order to balance out the beeyard.  Frames of brood and nurse bees removed from the strong colonies are placed in weaker colonies to help them get a jump start on the bee year.  This can also be beneficial for strong colonies because if the colonies go into April too strong, they are more likely to swarm.  While swarming is a natural and necessary part of the life cycle of the bee colony, as a beekeeper one is always more thrilled about spotting a swarm when it is certain that it did not emerge from one's own beeyard.  Last spring I did have the ocassion to observe a swarm emerge from one of our colonies.  Fortunately, I was able to retrieve it - it was placed in an empty hive body and became a productive new colony for Medovina.  About one week later a friend called and told me about a swarm just a couple of miles away from Niwot.  I loaded up my gear and set out to capture the swarm.  When I arrived on site I was pleased to see the swarm on a low branch of a shrub.   Piece of cake, I thought.  I took my time getting my gear ready, placing a hive body directly under the swarm.  I was just about finished explaining to a group of onlookers how I was going to simply shake the branch and drop the swarm into the hive body.  Yes, I was just about finished, but my story was about 3 seconds too long, for just as I reached for the branch, the bees decided it was time to relocate.  We all watched in awe as the swarm took to the air in search of a new home ...