winter bees part III

Posted by on January 28, 2015 in blog, holistic beekeeping | Comments Off on winter bees part III

“One can no more approach people without love than one can approach bees without care. Such is the quality of bees…”   Leo Tolstoy

open pollination

happy bees

Bees are industrious, generous and fascinating.  You see this versatile little bee, who cools her hive in summer with coordinated flapping of wings between flanks of bees on either side of the hive now warms her hive in winter with those same wings.  Through a constant and simultaneous flapping of their wings, the bees will maintain the temperature of their hive to warmth mirroring the coming days of spring.  Now in the height of winter, they cluster together, on the central comb with the queen in the midst of them.  Row upon row of bees surround the sealed honeycomb flapping their wings.  When the weather gets extraordinarily cold, they can actually dislocate their wings allowing them to flap in a way that produces even more heat.  When the little bees on the outer edges feel the cold embracing them, they crawl over their sisters to take a turn in the middle.   The move gradually up the hive as each cell of honey is emptied of it’s store.  The bees nearest the warm cells of honey pass it onto their neighbors and thus their stores of fragrant floral sunshine is shared throughout the darkness of the hive.

Around January is when a beekeeper begins to wonder whether the bees have gone through their stores of honey.  It’s too cold open the hive, but it’s best to stay prepared.  We’d placed two liters of honey in some mason jars with punctured lids on the counter, waiting for any break in the weather.  If the bees are going to starve,  January is generally when it happens. The temperatures have been bitter here in Virginia, only in the 20’s and low 30’s, but just the other day we got into the forty’s and I placed the honey in for them.  It’s risky, because if the honey leaks everywhere you can kill a lot of bees – cold and being covered with honey don’t mix well when a bee needs to flap it’s wings for warmth.

The first hive went through about half of their honey overnight.  But, I found the second hive had devoured theirs, so we placed more in –  and just in time.  We are expecting some serious snow in the coming days.

Here we are approaching February.  Soon, the queen will begin laying more eggs, preparing for the longer days of spring and the abundance of nectar it promises.   The bees will begin to forage on the pollen and nectar of the budding trees.



“In the Orthodox Church we have recognized the importance of bees

for centuries and have prayers for both bees and beehives.”

Prayer for Bees


O God, who knows how to work benefits through human labor and irrational living things, You instructed us in your loving-kindness to employ the fruits and works of the bees for our needs.  Now humbly we beseech Your majesty: Be pleased to bless the bees and increase them for the profit of the human race, preserving them and making them abundant.  Let everyone hoping in Your majesty and Your boundless compassions, and laboring in the care of these living things, be counted worthy to receive abundant fruits of their labors and to be filled with heavenly blessings in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom is due glory, honor and worship unto ages of ages. Amen.

from  Orthodox Prayer for Bees, in the article The Blessing of the Bees :


Maybe you are interested in keeping bees too?  There are many resources to help you begin your journey.  The first of which is really to take a class.

Our local bee club offers them, and you can find out more here.  If you are not from the Virginia area, you should be able to find a bee club in your neck of the woods.  But, I just came across this web-based beekeeping class from the Ohio State Beekeepers and there is another one from the University of Montana.

You can find equipment and other resources (like books and protective gear and hives) herehere and here.

You can learn more about the vanishing of the bees here and here and here!