Friday, January 22, 2010

How Snow Melts around the Hive

I'm curious about how and why snow melts around a hive.

We've had a pretty big dump of snow lately--enough to make my nephew rather be up the slopes, snowboarding than doing anything else.

I've been busy the last couple weeks and didn't find time to visit the hives. I wanted to check the bottom entrances. Would they be covered in snow, keeping the bees inside?
There was snow all around the hive but surprisingly, the bottom entrances on both hives were clear. There were piles of dead bees too.

Hive #2 (pictured at left) had a lot more dead bees than Hive #1 (pictured above). It looks worrying to see so many. Being my first year, I don't have experience to rely on but I feel that Hive #2 has more dead bees out front than it should have.

When I did my Lazarus routine and a handful of bees came back to life, I had time to look them over. Their bodies looked to be in perfect health and I didn't see any signs of mites on them. I also didn't see any deformed bodies or deformed wings so that's a relief too.

I'm presuming that the queen has probably stopped laying eggs about now. I hope that Hive #2 has enough honey in the 1 1/2 boxes that they call home (a deep and a medium).

I wondered if the heat from the hive melted the snow away from the entrance. It's possible, even though the bees don't warm the whole hive--just their cluster.
Then I noticed that the tree trunks of the apple trees and the cut up stumps on the ground close by all had the snow melted away from the surface by a 1/2 inch or less.

It must be that the sun warms up the object and then the snow melts away from it and then freezes, once the sun goes down which would explain why the edges of the snow look like ice.

(See this photo of a stump at left, complete with a rabbit pellet and dead bee laying in the snow.)

I remember making igloos as a child. What always strikes me funny is how very warm it is inside a snow cave. Snow is very insulating and is great to block out breezes and cold drafts. Even my home is warmer on cold winter days when there's snow up against the foundation.

All these things should benefit the hive in retaining warmth and preventing drafts.

I did see some bees flying, not just the Lazarus bees flying from my hand. Hive #2 had a couple bees come out and circle around. I didn't see any action on Hive #1 but they always seem to be quieter than Hive #2.
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