Red Bucket Farm is an urban farm on a quarter acre property in an average residential neighborhood. We are located in Wisconsin, USDA Zone 5. We focus on chickens, bees, orchard fruit, and raised garden beds for fruits and veggies. We hope to reduce our footprint on the planet by growing some of our food, reducing our use of fossil fuels, and gardening with sustainable practices. Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Winter Bees

The weather at Red Bucket Farm has been fairly dreadful in terms of our honeybees. Towards the end of October, we covered the hives with insulation blankets and wrapped the entire bee yard with plastic to protect the hives from western winds.

November was just plain cold. Outdoor air temperatures were way below normal, hovering in the teens during the day and close to zero at night. The bees disappeared into the hives where they clustered together in a tight ball around the queen.

December has been warmer but cloudy, foggy, damp and drippy. It's normal for bees to take "cleansing flights" during winter months. They prefer to not poop in their hives and will slip outside on a sunny afternoon for quick trip to the ladies room. Unfortunately, we haven't seen the sun or the bees in weeks---until yesterday. Finally we had a few hours of sunshine and one of our hives took the opportunity to get outside.

This video is about one second long, but you get the idea. (Sorry that I'm not so clever with technology.) We'll be happy if even one hive survives the winter so that we can build and split with the hardy bees that make it. Replacing bees each spring is expensive---about $100 per hive---and we may not be able to justify the expense if they die each winter.

So, at the risk of repeating myself endlessly, if you still use lawn chemicals, please reconsider. Chemicals weaken the bee population significantly. If the bees approach winter in a compromised state, they can't possibly survive. Pollination is tenuous these days, and without it, we all suffer. Backyard bees are better off than rural bees because foraging is more varied, but lawn chemicals are toxic. Remember that dandelions are bee food.

Meanwhile, we have a glimmer of hope that some of our bees are still alive!

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