Weather geekery

By | March 10, 2013

Spring and Summer 2012 wasn’t great for bees, one main factor was the weather.

For humans, the start of Spring was concentrated awesome.
It was the warmest March since 1957, the 3rd warmest since 1910.
March was also very dry, with less than a 3rd of the normal rainfall. The driest March since 1953, and the 5th driest since 1910. 1910 must have been epic!

BTW, did you know the MET Office have daily temperature records back to 1772, the longest instrumental record in the world?! *and* precipitation records back to 1766?!
No wonder the Brits love to talk about the weather, weather geekery is in their DNA.

Anyway. March 2012 – Beautiful weather, right? Lovely and warm, sunny, and ideal for bee populations to end winter, start growing in numbers, and get collecting nectar. Which is exactly what they did, with rapid population growth from around 10,000 bees / colony over winter, towards the 50 to 60,000 bees a colony reaches in the height of summer. Remember, the queen lays around 2,000 eggs / day in summer, with a three week gestation period – so populations can increase rapidly.

All those new bees mean more mouths to feed. There hadn’t been much time for over-wintered bees to collect new nectar and pollen stores, but now you’ve got a strong workforce to get collecting.

Cue the real problem – April, June and July 2012 had loads of rain.
Unfortunately this caused these new large populations to stay indoors for months, with very little to eat. Beekeepers with 30 years experience said they never had such a challenging year.¬†Sadly for inattentive beekeepers, some colonies simply starved to death. The cure was to feed your bees a sugary solution to keep them alive – this doesn’t get stored as honey, but at least keeps your colony alive as an emergency measure.

This caused bees to starve on the comb (in the hive), and for those bees that did make it through, a low honey yield nationwide.

March 2013 promises not to repeat history…
With snow and chilly weather forecast this week, I’ve started feeding my bees not because there are too many mouths to feed, but simply because they might soon run out of their winter food stores.

I’m keeping my eye on the long range forecasts. This year, in addition to wanting to sling on my most supreme OluKai jandals, I’ve got a new reason to want the weather to warm up, and show us some sun.

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