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Bees earning their room and board

Brett Kent

Hello, folks, welcome to a mid-winter edition of the Beehive. I thought I would check in with you folks and let you know how the bees are doing, and what is going on this time of year in the commercial Beekeeping world.

So as we dig out of the biggest snow storm of the season, the bees are busy trying to stay warm in the hive boxes. As you know, if you are regular readers of the Beehive, I did not take my bees to Kansas this year.

Nor did I try to winter the bees in the heated garage. This year, I just kept my bees outside in the hive boxes, with a piece of buffalo board on the inside cover to absorb the moisture.

The moisture is created from the bees from breathing and keeping warm. People ask me all the time, what are the bees doing in there? The bees are gathered in a cluster. As the bees warm up, they move to the outside of the cluster. The cold bees move to the center of the cluster to warm up. As the cluster of bees moves throughout the hive box, they consume honey. The honey gives them nourishment and the energy to create heat.

Now, during the last warm spell, approximately 10 days ago, when the daytime temperature reached 30 degrees, the bees were making cleansing flights.

This is where the bees come out of the hive box and go to the bathroom. As I was observing the bees, I decided to open up a few hives for a quick look and see how they were doing. I opened 10 hives and found that 7 of them were still alive.

Now, if you told me last fall, that 70 percent of my hives were going to make it through the winter, I would take that deal every time. I am sure that I will lose more hives as the winter continues.

If I were able to save 50 percent of my hives, that would be perfect. Then in the spring, I would be able to split the hives and be back to the same number of hives I had this year.

Ok, enough about my bees. Now, let's talk about my buddy the commercial bee guy up in Clearbrook. Jerrel Johnson and his boys had hauled their bees to Texas last fall. They have some land down there where they are able to winter their bees and get them ready for the upcoming season.

I was talking to Jerrel the other day, and he told me that his boys were busy getting the bees ready to ship to California. The bees will be placed in the almond orchards to pollinate the almond trees. The almond farmers pay the beekeepers to bring their bees out there for approximately a month to six weeks.

Farmers that use bees to pollinate the almond trees can see up to a 75 percent increase in their crop yield. Jerrel told me that his boys were in the process of sending six semi loads of bees out there.

Each truck will carry 660 hives. Jerrel also said that the bees are inspected as they enter California. The inspections are an effort to keep unwanted insects and non-native critters out of the state. So, the beekeepers have to spend plenty of time washing their equipment and making sure that they are only shipping bees.

That's enough for now; next time I will tell you a little story about how our honey helped save a little dog's life. No kidding!

You folks take care.