Honey Bees are a fascinating species. ‘A Year in the Life of a Honey Bee Colony’ was the topic for our February Nature Talk. Among other things, we learned that each colony acts as a cohesive unit, communicating with one another to make decisions. Contrary to popular understanding, the queen is more of a communication hub than a royal dictator.
It was in partnership with the recently formed Pembina Valley Backyard Beekeepers that we brought out Rhéal Lafrenière, Manitoba’s Provincial Apiarist. He spoke on the changes that occur in a Honey Bee colony throughout the year. The talk took place at the Morden Library on February 9th.
Manitoba is a challenging place for Honey Bee colonies to survive in the wild. However, with the help of humans they are able to thrive here, producing more honey than bees in other regions.
The season begins in April. The first step is to increase the colony’s population. To do so, bees need pollen and water. Normally, bees gather these resources through foraging, but they could be provided directly to the bees. However, the activity involved in foraging actually encourages better colony growth.
By mid-June colonies should have enough bees to produce high levels of honey. At this point, beekeepers should shift their efforts to harvesting and processing honey. It can be challenging to keep up with the busy pace of the bees. To do so, beekeepers need to be aware of their colonies and ready to add fresh boxes for honey storage and empty full boxes.
In the fall, the colonies’ populations begin to decrease. The bees become more protective of their honey, as it is intended to be the bees’ food over the winter. However, it is better to overwinter them on sugar water instead because it is the easier to digest.
In the winter, the bees can handle temperatures as low as -40°C. They keep their hive warm by taking turns shivering. Their main struggle is with rapid temperature changes.
The event was a great opportunity for local beekeepers to connect with the Pembina Valley Backyard Beekeepers. The Pembina Valley Backyard Beekeepers intend to be a group that provides peer support to one another. They also hope to help teach the public about bees and beekeeping. Email PVBB to learn more about their future events.
Also, the Manitoba Beekeepers Association are holding their annual convention on February 24th & 25th at the Canad Inns Polo Park in Winnipeg. On Saturday afternoon there will be a free, intermediate-level workshop for newer beekeepers.
This event was a part of our winter series of Nature Talks. Our next Nature Talk will be on March 9th at 7:30 at the Morden Library. The topic will be The Underground World of Fungi and the speaker for the event will be Dr. Diana Bizecki, a botanist from the Manitoba Museum. Click here for more information.