So I have a teenie tiny colony that’s pretty much toast. I knew going into the winter it wasn’t in great shape. It was result of a late season queen that was mated sometime in September, which is not good for all kinds of reasons I won’t go into now. But essentially it was (is) a small colony with a poorly mated queen that I should have combined with a strong colony before winter set in.
In any case, Marc Bloom, another beekeeper here on the Isle of Newfoundland going all-in like me, because, come on, there’s no turning back now, dropped off a 5-frame medium nuc box for me the other day and I thought now would be a good time to dig into this dying colony, transfer it to a smaller, probably dryer hive box, and maybe give it a fighting chance. So that’s what I did. Here’s the video, including a sort of post-mortem looking through the dying colony’s old frames.
Honey bees can’t fly when their tiny wing muscles are too cold to move. When the sun shines on them in the winter, sometimes they warm up enough to fly. But the cold air can get to them while they’re flying and suddenly they drop out of the sky. I often find dead-looking bees like this in the snow throughout the winter. Sometimes, just for fun, I pick up the frozen bees and warm them up inside my house where they come back to life.
It’s not necessary to save bees in this way. Most bees will come back to life once the sun shines on them again. But even the ones that die often die for a reason. Continue reading →
Generally I don’t think it’s a good idea to return dying bees back to the hive. The bees in this video probably came outside to poop. Took a rest on the warm concrete block. Enjoyed the warmth so much that they lost track of time and got stuck out in the cold. Too cold to fly back inside the hive. But honey bees, when they’re sick, often leave the confines of their hive so they don’t share their germs with all the other bees inside the crowded hive. They maintain their social distance. They create a circuit breaker to cut off the transmission of disease by leaving the hive. Can picking up those sick bees and returning them to the hive can effectively re-transmit any disease they might have?
When I first learned about torpor at Honey Bee Suite, I thought, man, this is the coolest thing (no pun intended). It allowed me to relax about any winter beekeeping I’ve had to do over the years. Continue reading →
A bee landed on me and followed me into the house yesterday. It tried to get outside but it only got as far as the outside window screen of my office window. The temperature overnight was below freezing. The bee appeared dead the next morning. Until…
February 2019 Postscript: This is an example of torpor. It’s when a bee is so cold it can’t move — and appears dead. The bee comes back to life once it warms up (unless it really is dead). Here’s a video I posted on Twitter that demonstrates it in a slightly more dramatic fashion.
Frozen honey bees coming back to life by bringing them into the warmth of my house. The lesson: Honey bees in a state of torpor (so cold they can't move) may appear dead, but they're not. (Not always anyway).