Mother Nature brought unusually low average air temperatures during March. Several spring activities at our apiary were postponed until warmer average temperatures arrived in April.
Hive body reversals to move the brood nest lower in the hive were postponed. When hive bodies are reversed, the brood nest is no longer a spherical shape and nurse bees need to cover a more distributed brood nest. If the ambient temperature is too low and there are not enough nurse bees to cover the brood, they will become “chilled brood”.
Hive brood nest inspections and frame manipulations were postponed until average daily temperatures rose above 60 degrees. To rear new spring bees, the colony cluster maintains a core temperature of 95 degrees F. Heat is generated in the cluster by the bees contracting their two sets of flight muscles. If a cluster’s mantle bee on the outer surface of the cluster were to cool below 59 degrees she would enter “chill torpor” and fall off the cluster – she cannot fly or warm herself back up by shivering (Per Thomas D. Seeley in “Honeybee Democracy”).
Now that our chilly spring is history, it’s time to begin colony monitoring for swarm control. This year, in addition to traditional monitoring methods, I plan to use both hive weight (using a low cost luggage scale/fulcrum design) and hive sound monitoring (using an iPhone n-track and Swarmy app with ECM mic and earbuds). I believe these additional monitoring methods will help me better understand colony conditions and behaviors during the nectar flow and during swarm preparations. I’m looking forward to reporting back on weight and sound monitoring in a future newsletter…