While it is natural to sigh with relief when spring finally rolls around, in truth, spring is one of the hardest seasons for both bees and beekeepers. The perils of spring are many.
Spring colonies that have overwintered face a particularly daunting set of circumstances. For example:
- By spring, the number of individuals in a colony is greatly reduced compared to the previous fall. Fewer bees are available to perform the many colony chores, including keeping the brood nest warm and raising a new crop of young bees.
- Bees weakened by cold are more susceptible to disease. Springtime temperatures can be erratic and unpredictable, and if the bees suddenly becomes chilled, they may be more susceptible to diseases such as chalkbrood.
- If the colony is infected with mites, the mites are concentrated within a smaller population of bees, so the chance of a mite-vectored viral infection is high.
- Food stores—both honey and pollen—are low so poor nutrition, or even starvation, is always a possibility.
- Bees weakened by poor nutrition are also more susceptible to disease. So as the winter progresses into spring, the bees are more likely to succumb to a pathogen like Nosema, or to a condition such as dysentery.
- Many of the bees are old, having lived through the entire fall and winter. By spring, some of the bees may be 200 days old. These bees are not as strong or resilient as young bees.
- Moisture may have built up during the winter. A wet or damp hive is a haven for various fungal infections, such as chalkbrood disease. In addition, water dripping onto the cluster may chill or kill the bees.
- The bees may not have defecated in a very long time, increasing the likelihood of dysentery.
- Not only does dysentery weaken the bees, but feces deposited within the hive can become a breeding ground for bacteria and other pathogens which may also weaken or kill the bees.
So don’t relax too soon. Help your colonies along until their populations are once again overflowing the hives.
Honey Bee Suite