Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lazarus Bees

It was a little devastating and so unexpected.

I arrived at the yard around 4:00 on an overcast day with temperatures hovering around 9. I was checking on how the bees had fared with the winterized bee cozy installed and the sugar feeder.

First glance showed about 100 dead bees on the front stoop of Hive #2 (two bees on Hive #1). It was so very sad because most of these bees were carrying pollen. So they died on the stoop from cold and exposure. Their hive never received the pollen they worked so hard to collect. It was upsetting.

I can only presume that even though the day the cozies were installed was cool and it was near dark that there must have been at least 100 bees still out in the field foraging. By the time they returned it would have been near dark and cold. And then they would not have recognized the new looking entrance.

The confusion would have kept them outside the hive until they grew too chilled to move. And then they died on the stoop inches from their entrance.

Some of the bees looked pretty freshly dead. Inspired by seeing the last few minutes of a movie shot in Australia, I picked up about 15 or so of the "dead" bees - selecting ones that looked freshly dead and I put them in my hands.

I have hot hands. I always have, which is great if you're doing massage or if you happen to be reviving cold dead bees by warming them up. In the Aussie film the actor and a child picked up handfuls of dead bees in front of the hive on an early morning and warmed them in their hands. Then the film shows the bees flying off from their hands.

Guess what? That's what happened here. The video doesn't show the whole process, but would you believe that ALL the bees came back to life? Some revived in about 1 minuted and others took as long as 10 minutes. The bees showed absolutely no inclination to aggression or a desire to sting. In fact, they didn't want to leave the warmth of my hands.

I should maybe have tried it with all 100, but that might be going too far. It certainly confirms that parametic saying and that there's a big difference between "warm and dead" and "cold and dead". Cold you can work with.

My advice: Don't rush to put the cozies on. Wait for a really good and cold day when no bees are flying or put it on at night.

I was upset that this happened and that the hive missed out on all that pollen. I hate waste and wasted efforts, especially when the bees died. It doesn't sit well. I blame myself mostly for not thinking of the potential problem. But I am glad about the few that like Lazarus, rose from the dead. And the wasted effort won't be so painful if this message helps someone else avoid the same problem.

As for the report on the barrell feeding, the bees don't appear to be taking the liquid from inside the barrel. Instead, they were way more focused on the sugar cakes that I put around the base of the barrel. The next day the cakes had been mostly eaten so I added more sugar powder.

There's much less activity on Hive #1 - this hive seems more placid and willing to relax - it's also the hive that Henry said was heavy enough for winter. It's not to say that they don't go out to forage because they do but they appear to be more organized. This is the hive with the purchased mated Buckfast queen. Hive #2 has a queen they made themselves.

Post a Comment