The long night

In three days, my bees will have the shortest amount of daylight since summer began, 9 hours and 25 minutes to be exact. Daylight length stays about the same for 10 days then increases in small increments ending 2015 with 9 hours and 28 minutes. Why you may ask, should I care?

In today’s age of electric lighting we don’t give much thought to what effect day length has on plants and animals as we humans have engineered a way around the issue. We may grumble about “the darkness” but we no longer need to key our life around daylight. There was a time when humans did depend on day length but we developed the ability to control fire. Lucky us.

My bees are able to sense but not control daylight. Amazingly they control temperature, food supply, brood production, protein, water, shelter, disease and several other items important to their survival as a living organism. They have adapted to day length but can’t control it.

This makes sense you say, but so what you ask? By the end of February, day length has increased to 11 hours and 17 minutes for my bees but temperature is still below freezing and limited outside resources are available; no increased food supply, no protein for increasing brood production, no water to blend with stored honey, not many new bees and too cold for cleansing flights. The pressure for survival is pushing the bees into a desperate situation.

Enter the beekeeper who has the ability to help.

I can add food and protein, I can clear the dead bees from the bottom board,  I can be sure there is available ventilation to prevent moisture and I can legally treat for mites using Oxalic acid in either liquid of vapor format. I can get my equipment ready, build new frames to exchange for the old dark ones. I can order new queens. I can make plans for the 2016 beekeeping year. I can review my record book. I can plan for splits and nucs. I can remove and clean any dead hives. I can order and assemble new equipment.

I can understand that day length and the increased warmth is what triggers my bees to prepare for spring and the ancient urge to swarm. The bees are getting ready for spring. Will I be ready?