Spring is here! The birds are tweeting, the bees are flying, the sunshine warms your body and everything is good and right with the world again. Hang on – that was last week. It’s a lot bloody colder now!
The first day of spring for the Northern hemisphere in 2017 was officially Monday March 20th. Also known as the vernal equinox, spring equinox or March equinox, this is the date in which the sun crosses a line in the sky known as the celestial equator – effectively an imaginary line drawn above the Earth’s real equator. We’d like to hope that the day would be marked by a sudden improvement in the weather and temperature signifying the end of winter and the onset of spring. Unfortunately this seemed to happen the wrong way around this year and temperatures have dropped a good few degrees and feel even worse due to wind chill.
THIS is why I’ve not been messing around with my bees just yet. I’ve been watching videos on YouTube of people ‘taking advantage of the warm weather’ and doing shook swarms or Bailey comb changes. These are big, disruptive manipulations and I’m asking myself if there is any necessity for them this early in the season. For me, the weather is not yet reliably warm enough to be putting my bees in a stressful and difficult situation that may make it hard for them to survive. A week or so of warm weather in March does not mean that we won’t see frosts, or even snow, in late March or early April. Most of us know that snow, even as late as Easter is not unheard of.
As a gardener as well as a beekeeper I’ve learned the hard way that early sowings are prone to loss. It’s very easy to get overly optimistic and plant seeds too early. Sometimes they’ll start to sprout. Sometimes they get lucky and the weather stays warm enough for them to survive. More often than not it turns and seedlings die or get super stressed and ‘leggy’. I’ve made this mistake myself on many an occasion in the past and am trying hard to do better. With seedlings though, there is always an option to replant and start again when the weather is actually warm enough. We may not always get this option with bees. If they die, it’s not so easy to start again.
Any beekeeper (or aspiring beekeeper) would do well to remember that bees are fundamentally wild and, given the right circumstances, they will survive without any help from us. All we are doing is hoping to provide a better standard of lodging for them in return for a little honey and some pollination services. We are landlords not keepers, and should be respectful of our tenants homes. I’m pretty sure that if my landlord lifted off the roof, took all the furniture and expected me to rebuild everything from scratch, AND did it while the weather was likely to make things freezing cold in the kids nursery, I’d be moving out.
Thank I’ll wait another couple of weeks before doing anything major.