Where have all the honeybees gone?

Friday, March 2, 2018

Winter has set in this year and with that there is one question that I get asked more than any other during this time, “Where do all the honeybees go?”

This is a good question and I usually hear many different thoughts as to an answer. The correct answer is that they are still there in the tree or hive and with a little luck and good preparation by the beekeeper, live through the winter to come out in full force as soon as spring hits.

Watching a honeybee in the warmer months you can see that they are darting around always on the move, but a worker honeybee in the summer will only live about 35 to 45 days as they work themselves to death.

In the winter months their bodies slow way down to a state of barely moving. All of the workers gather into a tight cluster surrounding the one queen. They slowly move through the hive feeding on the honey that they stored in the frames and create heat to keep everyone warm in the cluster.

Even when it’s -5 degrees outside they can keep the temperature about 92 degrees inside the cluster. Since their bodies are in a slow motion state they can last all winter until they are active again in the spring, as long as they have food and their cluster is not broken, which could be disastrous.

Beekeepers are now working to prepare for the next season. Winter is the time for repairing worn equipment and learning. This is the best time for anyone that is interested in keeping honeybees to get started, and the first step is to learn.

To kick this year off in the right direction I will be holding a beginner beekeeping class, March 10 at 10 a.m. to about 4 p.m. Anyone interested in coming and learning the basics of beekeeping is welcome.

The class will be held at the Manning Biological Field Station, DePauw University Nature Park, located about a quarter-mile west of the tracks on West Walnut.

Cost is $20 per person and lunch will be provided. To reserve a seat and get further information on the class, call 765-386-2679, or e-mail bob.gruener@gmail.com.

Anyone interested in joining our association is also welcome. The association is free to join and meets at 6 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at the DePauw Julian Science building auditorium.

Putnam County Beekeepers Association members have a goal, for all of us to become a self-sustainable association. This means that as a group we want everyone in the association to get to a point where we have minimal hive losses from winter and what losses we experience we make up for by building our own queens and colonies, instead of ordering packages from the south.

Keeping our area full of Hoosier bees will be a great benefit to all.

To join you can just show up at a meeting or contact me at the above e-mail if you have any questions.

Bob Gruener is the president of Putnam County Beekeepers Association.

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