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Winter: a time of rest?

Beekeepers don't get much of a break in Texas.  With only a few months of 'real' winter, there's not much time to rest.  The time is spent repairing old equipment, building new equipment, cleaning up and organizing, and tending to all the things that generally get neglected the rest of the season.  Of course, if your hive went into winter light (without enough honey) there's also winter feeding to add to the list.  

But winter is always a good time to reflect on the previous year and get ready mentally for the next year.  Whether your hives thrived last year or you experienced some troubles, January always feels like a new fresh start is on the horizon with spring just around the corner. And as we kick off this new year, I want to spend some time talking about how we should be thinking about the 'seasons' of beekeeping.   

A colony's activity patterns are based around the weather, and here in Texas we have some pretty erratic weather patterns.  With climate change, these periods of unusual weather and intense storms get worse each year, which means we have to constantly adapt to these patterns and what we can expect of our bees at any given point. Gone are the days when we used to be able to identify, almost to the day, when a nectar flow would start.  Nectar producing plants also respond to weather patterns, and last year was the perfect example of how plants and bees change course as a result of weather, and in response, how beekeepers must rethink hive management.  '

Last February, we had one of the severest winter storms we have ever seen in Central Texas.  As I shared during our storm post-mortem class last year, these freezing temps weren't anything that a strong hive couldn't withstand.  But by mid February spring had sprung in Texas--hives had started brooding up and the spring pollen flow had started.  A freeze that strong that late meant bees had a hard time keeping the large brood nests warm, and even the strongest of hives lost large amounts of brood as a result.  But the damage had only begun...the unprecedented back to back days of below freezing temps really did a number on our flora that had already started to germinate and bloom.  As a result, lots of plants never recovered or bloomed at all, while others bloomed 6 or more weeks late.  This, plus an extremely wet May, produced the poorest nectar flow I've seen yet.  

As we enter the new year, I am already thinking ahead towards spring and wondering what the season will bring. We are at the total whims of Mother Nature in so many ways, and it's important that as beekeepers, we understand how weather patterns, both expected and those that are more erratic, are going to affect the flora and our bees.  It's easy to get so focused on individual hives that we can forget to step back and pay attention to the bigger picture.  

A Texas Beekeeper's Calendar

This month I am excited to announce the return of our in person Ask A Beek classes at the Honey Ranch! And this month we are taking the time to look ahead and think about the many 'seasons' of beekeeping to come.  I'll be sharing with you what to expect from your hive as we move through the calendar year and what to do when the weather throws us a curveball! Plus, we will have a 'cheatsheet' for you to take home of what to look for in your hives each season.  I hope you can join us on February 28th at 5pm to kick off a new beekeeping season.  Drinks on us, and the free workshop starts at 5:30pm.  I will share more on the connection between bees and weather patterns, and send you home with a cheat sheet of what to expect through the seasons.  Event is free and you can learn more here. 

How are you spending your beekeeping break? Hit reply and let me know!

For the Bees,
Tara Dawn

Spring 2022 nucs and queen bees are now for sale! Order now for pick up this Spring. Nucs are quality 6 frame nucs with wall to wall bees, and the bees we use in our own client's bee yards. You can also order equipment packages to go along with it. Queens are from BeeWeaver, and are bred to be more mite resistant than other bees. Learn more and order HERE.
Is 2022 the year you finally become a beekeeper? Check out our intro to beekeeping class on February 17 and March 31.  Not local or prefer an online option? Check this out. 
Our Spring apprenticeship class starts in just a few weeks! Six full Saturdays of workshops, hands-on bee work, great food, and community with your fellow apprentices. We only offer our apprenticeship twice a year!  Interested? Hit reply and I'll share a discount code for $50 off your deposit! 
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