March in a Central Oregon Apiary 2019

Looking back, then preparing for forward

  I volunteered to write this column a couple of weeks ago because I’m recovering from knee replacement surgery and thought it would get my mind off sore knees, physical therapy, home exercises and cabin fever.  In looking back I find that I wrote the March 2018  column also.  So, I’ll try to include some new stuff rather than repeat everything I said in 2018. If you have time, and are a member of COBKA, you can click on the “In the apiary Archives” tab at the bottom of this column and read last year’s (March 2018) column too.

   February 2018 was a cold month and February 2019 has been an even colder month. The average daily high temperature in February 2019 has been close to 7 degrees colder than the historical daily high average of around 45 degrees.  Most hives  in the Bend area and central Oregon, haven’t had a good bee flight day (daytime temperature somewhere above 47-50 degrees F) since February 2.  Current predictions are for the next “possible” bee flight day to be Saturday March 10 at 48 degrees.  That’s over 5 weeks without a cleansing flight for our bees.

  The recent big snow fall is of concern too.  Not only in the months of February and March but just about any winter month in central Oregon the snow can be deep. I will try to get to my hives and see that the entrances are not blocked.  It is one good reason to have your hives on a stand a foot or two high so the entrance has a chance of being out of the snow. It is also a reason to have some type of upper entrance so the bees can still have access to the outside for air circulation.  

  Now is also a time that the size of the overwintered bee population can come into play if it hasn’t already.  If a hive has a small overwintering population that has dwindled due to natural attrition over the winter, the bees may be having a difficult time keeping their winter brood warm while breaking the winter cluster enough to access stored honey and pollen even if they have plenty.  There is good reason for combining small hives with larger hives in the fall if they are both healthy.  The combined stores as well as increased population can make the difference between surviving a long cold winter like this one, and ending up with a dead out, or two dead outs.

Allen Engle presented some very good information in his February column that mostly applies to March as well.  Checking for dead outs, checking for late winter stores of hives that are still alive, emergency feeding those that might need it, preparing equipment for new and replacement hives, arranging for queens and packages of bees to be delivered etc. Rather than repeat all that I will just say read the February column.

  One thing that I haven’t done yet is read through my notes from last years hive inspections. It can be interesting to read what is essentially the one year history of a hive.  And you will probably learn something.  Remembering the origin of a particular hive is one thing that can be helpful to know.  Was it a swarm you captured, or requeened with a new queen you bought?  Sometimes I can’t tell what I meant when I read my summer notes.  I learn to take the time to leave better clearer notes for future reference. 

Good luck with your hives this year, and I hope it warms up soon.

Dennis Gallagher

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