You might think that as winter was mild it would be great news for bees. Sadly not.
Beekeeper Associations around the UK are reporting bee colony losses are up this year. You might find this strange, however a worker bee’s life in summer is only about 6 weeks long – they literally work themselves to death collecting pollen, nectar and water to make wonderful and delicious honey. This is okay as the Queen is laying eggs to keep the bee numbers up, but over winter the Queen stops laying eggs (brood) and the worker bees can expect to live for 4-5 months with their primary responsibility being to keep the colony and the Queen bee warm. Unfortunately, when you get warm weather spells during winter the worker bees take the opportunity to leave the hive in search of the ingredients for honey. This unexpected activity shortens the bees lifespans, and it also means as the bees are burning energy they need more food and start to consume more of their stored honey meaning some colonies may starve.
As bee numbers dwindle, from shortened lifespans and starvation, they find it increasingly difficult to keep their colonies warm and, sadly, the colony dies.
In addition, this year the bees have also had to deal with the unusual high level of rain and strong winds making it very hard for the bees to keep their colonies warm.
Fortunately, our own hives made it through winter in great shape. It’s always a bit nerve wracking when the weather allows your first inspection of the hives and it’s always a great relief when you find the Queen and everything is fine.
Climate change is a disaster for every part of nature, bees included.