UPDATE (March 02/11): See Adding Pollen Patties for a better view of a winter cluster.
The weather has been mild and dank in St. John’s, Newfoundland, since November, but winter is shifting into a higher gear now. The winds are picking up and the temperatures are taking a dip. It was only about -5°C today, though the wind chill factor made it feel like -20°C. (American readers can convert that to the antiquated, nonsensical Fahrenheit scale by typing “-20 C in F” in Google. Get with the 21st century USA!) It was the first relative cold spell the bees have had to deal with this winter and I was curious how they would react. I’ve read contradictory stories about the behaviour of clustering bees over the winter. Some clusters start at the bottom of the hive and move up as winter progresses. Others move to the top only on really cold days when they can use the extra bit of heat that may rise to the top of the hive. And some clusters are all over the place. So I wanted to see what my bees were doing. And what I saw when I shone my flash light into the upper entrance was pretty darn cool, at least for a first-timer like me. It doesn’t matter how boring it is, if I haven’t seen it before, I’m thrilled. So here’s a boring video of something that thrilled me:
What you can’t see in the video is the actual number of bees on the outer cluster near the top of the hive. It’s like the scene in Aliens when Hicks shines a flash light inside the drop-down ceiling to discover it’s full of crawling aliens coming to get them. I’m not sure if the bees clustering near the top of the hive this early in the winter is a sign that they’re running low on honey, or if it’s normal behaviour. They’re probably fine, though.
I’ll lift the hives soon. If they’re light, I’ll put some candy/pollen paddies on top of the frames to get them through the rest of the winter. But I think they’re okay.