Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Buzzing Hive

We had our first 60-degree day in four months yesterday at 2:30, according to Tom Skilling, and the hive was abuzz with activity.

If you've been following along, you know we wondered if the bees had survived winter.

So this is very good news.
Note Art's crafty measuring stick for monitoring snowfall. We recorded as much as 7 inches on the stick this winter. Hard to believe that eight weeks ago it was minus 13 degrees F.

How do bees keep warm enough to survive winter in Chicago? Norbert M. Kauffeld says in his Seasonal Cycle of Activities in Honey Bee Colonies:

As temperatures drop, the bees draw closer together to conserve heat. The outer layer of bees is tightly compressed, insulating the bees within the cluster. As the temperature rises and falls, the cluster expands and contracts. The bees within the cluster have access to the food stores. During warm periods, the cluster shifts its position to cover new areas of comb containing honey. An extremely prolonged cold spell can prohibit cluster movement, and the bees may starve to death only inches away from honey.

This reminds me of penguin clustering behavior.

put out a bowl of sugar water to keep the girls fed until spring starts in earnest.


Bruce said...

I don't have a hive on my roof, but your experiment has made me reconsider.

I just watched this short video that shows all the tunnels/structures created under one giant anthill. The complex covered 5000 square feet and went down 25 feet. I wonder if some clever bee tracker will come up with a way to show how far bees travel from their hive?

H2 said...

That's an astonishing vid, Bruce. Re tracking bees, there's got to be some data out there. I'm heading your way to transplant right now.

chiayi said...

Crazy video - saved it on my list of favorites.

I live in Milwaukee and my folks have a place just West of the city. Last year we put up a coop and house a bunch of chickens. For the past few months I've been researching beekeeping - thinking of setting up some hives here eventually. Any idea about good apiary resources online? Suggestions?

Thanks for the info on florescent lights - got my seeds started.

Like reading the website.


H2 said...

Our bee pal likes Simpson's:

I'm crazy envious of your fresh eggs! Good luck with getting a hive set up--keep up updated.

Bruce said...

Hi Steve,

I've learned a lot from the Basic Beekeeping Blog. They put a long, comprehensive tutorial online, the first one can be found here.

They're keeping hives in central Illinois and so deal with some of the same climate/pest issues that you might. They also sell supplies at .

Homegrown Evolution said...

Also check out:


Don't know how well our small cell method works in your climate, but it seems to work well here in LA.

H2 said...

Thanks, Homegrown. Good resources to explore...

Anonymous said...

Gah! You have a bee hive! How did I not know this?? When will we get some honey??

H2 said...

We are clearly overdue for a roof tour. Honey last fall was used to keep hive alive. Honey this fall for us to slather.