I have been an avid & passionate Honey Bee Keeper for 6 years. I now call Danville Hill here in Cabot Vermont, home. As I write, New Years is fast approaching and winter has enshrouded the landscape in its embrace. Over the last few weeks my hope that the cold would hold off as long as last year has been dashed. It’s fairly evident that winter is here to stay for as long as she chooses and the best we can do is hunker down, enduring the long dark nights as best we can.
I will join my neighbors in this endurance challenge, but I readily admit that these days, I always hope for a mild winter and an early spring. Winter can “bee”, nerve-racking for a beekeeper. The very thing snowboarders and skiers love is the very same thing that causes me anxiety. A hard winter can cost me several hives, by the time March or forbid, May thawing arrives. After all, this is part of my lively hood. Who knew that my foray into this light hearted hobby would turn into a diminutive drama with a cast of ½ Million?
Many people have little or no experience with beekeeping. Most however, have plenty of history of enjoying the fruits of these tiny creatures and their labors. Honey “Liquid Gold, or Liquid Sunshine,” is the condensed sugar rich nectar of millions of flowers. Flowers produce nectar to attract bees to pollinate them. The plants utilize the energy of the sun via photosynthesis and minerals of the earth to create the sweet sugars that make the nectar an attractive food for all pollinators of which the diligent honey bee is one.
This time of year, the honey bee workers (all infertile females) and the (fertile) queen are clustered deep within the hive. Keeping the cluster at 83-85 degrees, requires lots of honey which is important to them as an energy source. It is the main food they feed on. This supply must last them all winter or they will starve and freeze to death. Many a beekeeper knows the depressing frustration of finding a dead hive littered with bee bodies just weeks before the spring thaw.
As of now my hives seem to be doing just fine. They have been quiet with as little activity as necessary. It was a tough summer for the ladies. The drought which started in July, greatly suppressed the nectar production. I was restricted in how much honey I was able to harvest. In years past the fall has typically been my best production season. But this year it was May and June. I pray there is enough honey to get them through. I am however going to be proactive and feed them bee fondant, a sugar based supplemental feed. If all goes well, come the warm days of March, they will be buzzing around looking for pussy willow, and dandelion.
Anthony Pauly Jr, author of Merlin’s Veto: Chronicles of The New Merlin (Balboa Press), is a 9 year resident of Vermont who moved to Cabot in July of this year. He has been beekeeping for 6 years and occasionally teaches beekeeping workshops at his apiary or in the region. To read more you can look forward to his beekeeping adventure here.