Copper Bee Apiary

A garden apiary in Whittlesford, Cambridge, UK - honey bees and their beekeeper Hilary van der Hoff.

Colony in a Cold Snap

February had been getting warmer and increasingly springlike, until its final week when snow and ice returned us to winter and March came in like a snow lion. Snow piled up on the hive landing boards and, with temperatures below freezing, the colonies must have returned to tight clusters to keep warm and conserve energy. They will have been unable to break cluster to feed, care for or warm any brood in areas of comb beyond the cluster, so some of this precious new brood may have died.

Loss of brood at this point means fewer new adults growing up to relieve the old "winter bees" in the weeks to come. The colonies now have their lowest numbers of workers, just the few (~10,000) remaining adults who made it through the winter and are using their remaining energy to raise new spring bees to whom they can hand over.

Visiting today after the thaw, I found a drone standing in the doorway of Queen Mab's hive, looking out. He was dead, but he must have had a long life, and found a peaceful ending to it there looking out on the orchard in early spring.

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