It's been a while since I've blogged about the bees, and this is because bees in the winter are not very exciting. When the temperatures drop below 57 degrees, the bees form a cluster inside the hive, creating a literal ball of heat, and living off their stores of honey (since we didn't harvest any honey this year, our bees have plenty). From what I've read and researched, this is normal behavior, and an amateur beekeeper should not, for example, freak out and assume she has failed and that all her bees are dead and she is to blame because she hasn't seen a bee in months except for that one dead bee that was lying near the entrance of the hive Colony Collapse Disorder oh my god.
I hope you'll forgive me, but you can see why I had avoided blogging about the bees. While we could logically assume that they were safe and healthy in the hive, staying toasty in their cluster, we couldn't be 100% sure. We also couldn't open the lid and take a quick peek, because if the bees were there, we'd be letting the cold air in. All we could do was cross our fingers and wait for spring.
Lucky for us, spring came a little early this year. We've had unseasonably warm weather these last few days (Wilmington broke actual records, with a high of 78 on Saturday - it was glorious!) and while I was checking on the chickens, I noticed some activity near the bee box. I approached it slowly, crouched down, and then breathed a huge sigh of relief.
There were bees all over the hive, flying in and out of the entrance, zooming through the break in the trees above that Nathan and I like to think of as their own Super Bee Highway. I watched them for a few minutes, and probably saw at least a hundred bees coming and going. And when I stepped back (slowly, of course) and watched from a distance, the activity around and above the hive reminded me of the height of summer, when a thick cloud of bees covered the area each afternoon. I felt so grateful for the unexpected sunshine and warmth - not just because I despise winter, but because it was the reassurance I needed.
Later this week, when we return to cold and dreary days (nooooo!) and I don't see the bees again for a few months, I won't wring my hands and convince myself that we're the worst beekeepers on the planet. I'll trust that the hive knows what it's doing, and I'll look forward to spring, when we'll be reunited with our winged friends for good.