Should you trust your bees to Phil?
Saturday February 2 was Groundhog Day, one of my favorite celebrations. First thing I did was look out my window to see a bleak and dreary northwest morning. I announced to my husband that spring was just around the corner because that is the way the groundhog thing works—opposite of what you might think. If the groundhog sees his shadow, we will have six more weeks of winter weather; if not, spring is close.
Of course, Phil doesn’t live here in Washington, he lives in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. But being a Pennsylvania girl myself, I always play along. According to news reports, thousands of people arrive in the small town every year to witness the event. And guess what? No shadow this year. Spring is coming.
It was interesting though, because by 12:30 the sun had arrived in my yard and bees were pouring through their reduced openings. They circled above the hives, dipped and spiraled, congregated on the landing boards. It is unusual to see so many honey bees this early in the year. Maybe they were celebrating Phil’s finding or maybe they were desperate to use the facilities.
Apparently, the same weather pattern hit Tennessee. Herb Lester, my correspondent for all things bee down there, sent these hive photos. Same thing: the morning was bleak, but by afternoon the hive was clearly casting a shadow.
But here’s the catch, regardless of whether Phil is right or wrong, honey bees this active in February are going to burn through their honey stores with the speed of light. If you are having an unusually warm winter, if your bees are actually flying, do not forget to check on them every couple of weeks. More colonies die of starvation in the late winter/early spring than at any other time of the year. Remember, never trust your bees to a 126-year-old groundhog.