Beekeeping in Vermont...

Finally we have some cold weather. As I write it is 9 degrees at 4:01pm on January 3,2012.

In Vermont this is not unusual. However, what is unusual is that up to this point, through December, the weather has been quite balmy bordering on “almost” warm.

Facebook friends, The Jersey Cape Beekeepers Association, have been opening hives and pulling frames…in December! Granted they are 300 miles south but still…..I wish I could be inspecting like that right now. Why? Primarily because I am curious (read concerned) how my bees are doing.

The winter expectation is that the bees will cluster tightly to keep warm and that they are less active thus consuming less food and pollen. Given the warmer December were they more active inside the hive or did they cluster well?

I have performed a few “lift” tests (from behind the hive, reaching down grabbing the bottom board, lifting so the hive tilts forward) to assess general weight. Most seem heavy enough but that does not leave me encouraged. Has the balmier weather of December caused them to use up precious food stores quicker than they might have? What have the little critters been doing during December and why won’t they tell me?

Heck, if we had some snow at least I could see the dead ones from cleansing flights. That would be a moderate indicator of hive health.

I am looking forward to the Vermont Beekeepers Association winter meeting to talk with some of the “old” time beekeepers. I’d love to hear their perspective on this.

For now, I ‘ll just have to wait it out, hoping for the best and praying the clusters are strong enough to support the brood development coming soon.