6 FEBRUARY 2011
Today a warm spell is upon us here in Massachusetts meaning lots of snow melting into dripping slippery water. Melting, means moisture, so its a good segue into the issue of ventilation for honey bees struggling to winter over when they’ve not been suitably supported to deal with the damp.
Ventilation is critical yet frequently overlooked by many bee tenders in cold climates while they labor hard in many other ways to keep their bees alive over winter.
The honeybee is a cold-blooded, exothermic, like other insects, yet does not die off or hibernate in the winter. Rather, they actively move in symphony and metabolize honey to keep their hive warm. And instead of flying, they shiver their flight muscles to generate heat.
Not to get all “scientific” on you as I am no scientist nor expert, but I have learned that carbon dioxide gas and water vapor results from the bees metabolizing their “keep warm” honey. As this carbon dioxide is heavier than air, it settles to the bottom of the hive flowing out the bottom entrance; whereas, the warm moist air rises from the cluster hitting the cold inner top hive cover and becoming damp condensation stuck, like a refrigerator, with no way to dry.
So this condensation drips down upon the bees warm “winter cluster” as ice-cold water torture having a really negative effect upon all that they are doing to provide warmth and nutrition for their colony.
Proper ventilation of the hive helps keeps their hard won winter huddle dry. Though year round the hive top entrances provides bees a second exit, in winter it provides a critical portal by which water vapor can exit as well.
Depending upon where your bees are and what approach you use to tend to them – as there are many! – research the diverse recommendations on ventilation by successful bee mistresses and masters and see which ones seem right to you, your climate and your bee tending system.
Remember that it is not the cold that kills the self-warming capable bees, it is the wetness that wins in winter weather.
Saying sayonara now with six interesting facts about honeybees in Japan. Six being the sides of the honeycomb cell.
1. Apis cerana japonica, or Japanese honeybee (ニホンミツバチ) is a subspecies of honeybee native to Japan observed to move in urban areas where they can avoid predators such as the Asian giant hornet.
2. Asian hornets often attack honeybee hives to obtain honey bee larvae. See the National Geographic “Hornets From Hell” video posted to our site today! They have a very impressive fire balling approach to home invasion.
3. Whereas European honeybees, Apis Mellifera, have had a grueling time battling being unwanted hosts to the crippling Varroa mite and Nosema parasite, Apis Cerana coevolved with these potential afflictions and exhibit more careful grooming, thus more effective defense mechanisms against them.
4. Still, Japanese bees are disappearing at high rates and showing signs of Colony Collapse Disorder as we see here in the United States. Though in Japan there may be some correlation with the decline of those keeping bees locally.
5. According to the Japanese Beekeeping Association, “Japan imports the vast majority of its honey, with only around 6% coming from domestic producers.”
6. Horse Chestnut (tochi), Honey Locust (nise-akashia), Dogwood and Forest Honey are locally produced in Japan. Cherry Blossom honey, it would seem would be produced robustly, but I am told it is rare as its blooms do not produce enough nectar for the bees to harvest in significant volume for a widely available varietal. Go figure.
And that’s all she wrote. Stay dry, warm and see you on Monday!
Yours in discovery,