Dorcas Lane from “Larkrise to Candleford”

We entered winter, worrying over our remaining colony, Dorcas, and intending to make the occasional post about off-season beekeeping activities like cleaning the smoker or building new equipment. Unfortunately we did none of those things and so neither did we post. Now that an indecisive Spring at last is gathering her resolve to stay a while we should make a brief status report before the season truly begins.

When we tucked Dorcas away she was quite populous, having been merged with all our other colonies as they became queenless. On the odd warmer winter day we would look for a litter of dead bees or speckling of droppings but we had neither many such days nor much sign of the other. Just enough to give us a tiny bit of hope.

Last Saturday we attended the Michigan Beekeepers Association 2022 Spring Conference in person. While we had certainly enjoyed the ease of attending last year’s conferences virtually from the comfort of our couch, it was good to again have face-to-face conversations and wander the vendor room.

We felt embarrassed to admit to our plummeting colony count but our listeners were uniformly sympathetic and reassured us that waxing and waning of hive numbers is somewhat up to fortune. We still feel responsible but perhaps a little less guilty.

Then we were further heartened in a queen-rearing session when a large number of hands went up in reply to the question of who could not see eggs. Likewise to who could not find the queen. We are not alone in our handicap. In spite of last season, perhaps, we really are proper beekeepers after all. Of the hobbyist, bees-as-pets variety but still.

This warm Monday live bees were very much in evidence. Returning foragers hovered in a cloudlike holding pattern in front of the single open entrance hole, trickling into the hive in between departing bees. With just a glove and needle-nose pliers we cautiously opened the second entrance, which was immediately put into use. Neither maple nor crocus is yet in bloom so it was unsurprising if slightly disappointing that we saw no pollen being brought into the hive. In terms of forage the bees may have been wasting their time but it was cheering to imagine that they enjoy a flight after being long hivebound.

When the scene was repeated on the nearly summerlike Thursday we finally removed the black insulation from Dorcas to let her greet the coming season in her festive purple. We have hope.

Edited 2022-Mar-21 : Our first crocus bloomed yesterday and today we saw a bee working it. At the hive the bees were steadily bringing in pollen in small amounts from farther off.