This spring started out full of promise. We had gentle warm days and mild, cool evenings. The spring flowers were magnificent and provided a much needed mental boost to all of us stuck in quarantine. The bees were doing well too packing in honey and increasing their numbers. Just when everything was going great, the weather gave us a sucker punch. Did Mother Nature tell spring to go home and shelter in place? I am slowly learning not to expect much of 2020. If I were going to give 2020 a theme song, it would be “Hard Candy Christmas.” If 2020 had a slogan, it would be “You get what you get and don’t throw a fit.”
What we got this year was freezing temperatures in May. The rule where I live is that you plant all your summer flowers and vegetables after Mothers Day because the danger of frost has past. For the first time in my 47 years, we had frost past Mothers Day! The prolonged cold kept the bees inside their hives. We had hoped to make splits and sell nucs this year, but I doubt that will happen now since everything is set back.
In spite of the cold temperatures, I am still hearing local reports of honey bees swarming. These reports were shocking to me. Why would bees swarm when it is so cold at night that they probably won’t survive outside of their hive? I want to say, “Stay inside bees so you can be healthy at home.” Perhaps I have watched too many corona virus updates because I don’t think the phrase, “Healthy at home” resonates with the bees. Honey bees in spring are like people quarantined in a pandemic. They feel they need to leave home even if it may be risky to do so.
Doug needed a few supplies for our bees. We had some wooden ware that had rotted and needed to be replaced. Fortunately our local beekeeping store was still open, and they had what we needed. The store’s inventory was sparse. The covid-19 supply chain disruptions extended to beekeeping equipment. Everything seems to be more difficult this year.
We do have some good news to report. You may recall from a previous post that six of the seven hives we took into winter survived. In April we discovered that two of the six hives were queenless. Thankfully one of the queenless hives successfully produced a new queen. She mated and has been laying eggs. The one remaining queenless hive sits next to our strongest hives. Doug continues to move frames and brood into the queenless hive to give the colony a chance to produce a new queen on its own.
While we wait for the new queen’s coronation, Doug and I work on our gardens. So far the following has been planted: radishes, two varieties of potatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, cilantro, basil, two varieties of lettuce, kale, swiss chard, red cabbage and bush beans. Under the basement grow light I still have green peppers, banana peppers, jalapeno peppers, acorn squash, butternut squash, and cucumbers. Some tomatoes have already been planted, and some are still under the grow light. About 40 tomato plants will go into the gardens this year.
I hope the bees recover from this cool spring. I hope my garden does well in spite of the late frost. We had big plans for 2020 but that was before we knew a pandemic was coming. As the saying goes, “Men plan and God laughs.” Maybe that should be the slogan for 2020. I pray that all who read this are healthy and doing well at this difficult time.