Honey bee colonies have seasons. They are the same seasons we observe in general, Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. The bees observe the timing and changing of the seasons a bit differently though than we do.
We talk about certain beekeeping tasks and chores that should done seasonally. The first Spring inspection, the last Fall inspection. Treatments for various environmental issues and potential pest problems, etc…
When is Spring for Bees though? When does it actually beeginning? Is it a date on the calendar? In my experience, I would like to suggest that it starts when the bees sense it and act upon it. More of observing certain environmental conditions and the innate responses that are triggered in the colony in response to those conditions.
For me, Spring doesn’t really start until colonies get serious about drone production. During the Winter and what I call “pre-Spring” there are good weather conditions to get inspections done to check on brood production, feed stores and colony buildup. Spring isn’t actually kicked in though until we see the colony make a serious effort at drone production.
When the first batch of drones are capped I can fairly reasonably say that Spring is here and in about 2 weeks swarms might get started and virgin queens will be able to begin mating.
Swarms don’t usually leave until virgin queens are about to emerge. Virgin queens can’t get mated until there is an abundance of drones. “Abundant” being a relative term depending on an area’s population density of colonies.
So, first drones, then virgin queens, then swarms. Spring has sprung indeed. Our hive inspections, manipulations and activities fall in somewhere among these beehaviors.
That’s the beeginning of the year for me. To go to the opposite end, Fall, what do the bees tell me about that?
Once again, the colony tells me when Fall arrives with drones. The colony stops or dramatically reduces drone brood production and actively starts culling the drone population. Fall has slipped up on us.
No more drones means no more queen rearing (unless something goes awry). The active beekeeping year has come to it’s eventual winding down. Once again, those timely inspections, manipulations and control measures will be fit in among the bees drawing down the colony population and makeup.
Somewhere in between Bee Spring and bee Fall is bee Summer. How do the bees indicate that Summer has begun? Good question. The most obvious indicators of Summer in a bee hive are the colony teaching it’s population peak and switching the focus from primarily brood buildup to foraging and honey production\stores.
So with bees as with with everything else, “to all things there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven…”
When planning those beekeeping activities, Maybee consider is it time for it based on a date or by the bees? Could bee that the bees will have something to tell us about that.