Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lazarus Come Forth!

I did it again.

I didn't mean to but I couldn't help myself.

It was that I'd just come from a death and I needed to see some life.

I'd been at the vet that morning. One of our foster cats had to be put to sleep. It was difficult but the right decision. Nevertheless, it was sad.

The plan was to visit the bee yard after. I knew just seeing the hives would be a pick-me-up.

As I expected, there were dead bees in the snow. I'd certainly read enough about it in my research. They say it's normal in winter to have dead bees out front. What they forget to point out is how it tugs at a beekeeper's heart to see bees that have perished in the cold.

It's poop that's to blame. They have to hold their poop in the really cold weather but when it warms up a bit they fly out to defecate. Sometimes they just get too cold to make it back.

From the photos you'll see how many of them look very freshly dead, posed on the cold snow as if they were flash-frozen. That was what surprised me. They didn't look like mushed up frozen (truly) dead bodies.

It was interesting to see how much melted snow surrounded their bodies. They must certainly have been generating a fair bit of heat to melt that much snow away.

I did what any obsessive beekeeper would do. I picked them up and warmed them up in my hands just to see what would happen. After all, I had nothing to lose.

At first they felt cold. Then after about 5 minutes the heat in my hand began to increase exponentially. I could tell that it was warming their bodies and in turn generating more heat. I knew we had life coming back at that point because surely, dead bees can't do that can they?---generate heat.

Shortly after that I could feel little movements, twitches of life as they stirred and came to life.

After about 2o minutes almost all the bees were moving and active. A few still looked dead but if I watched I'd see a twitch of a leg or an antennae moving slightly, showing that given more time they'd all resurrect, just like the biblical Lazarus.

It was an overcast day with temperatures around -1 but the snow certainly helped to give a feeling of brightness to the area.

Our colder temperatures have dropped off the last few days and our last dump of snow is slowly melting.

I wanted to check the bottom entrances to see if they were blocked by snow and I was surprised to find them clear of it.

There's also a top entrance that they could use if the bottom was blocked but I'm not sure if they're aware it's there. It's there more for ventilation or an emergency exit than anything else.

Watch how the dead bees in the center of my hand start to move and twitch as their cold bodies are warmed up and they come back to life.

Beekeepers out there have you ever tried this??? What happened?
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