It's a gorgeous day, the snow is melting, and critters are starting to emerge from their winter daze. I sure felt like one of them, blinking like an owl in the sudden sunshine outside. A visit to the apiary confirmed that our colony of honeybees has survived the winter. Wooohooo! It’s an amazing sight seeing them buzzing to and fro, it being just barely March! All in all, a good day for starting a blog, writing about our adventures as entomologists and some of our experiences working in the field of ecological pest control. I’d love to share some stories, tips, AND excitement about working with insects and wildlife, doing our detective work, and coming up with natural ways to help people out with their uninvited-creature problems.
Since I mentioned the honey bees, I think this would be a nice first post. Honey bees survive the winter by moving close together within the colony, forming a cluster. This cluster will expand or dilate, depending on the temperature. In the center of the cluster, where the queen resides, the temperatures are warmest, around 2o° C. The workers bees need to continually rotate, since things are much colder around the fringes of the cluster (~7° C) !
There’s been a lot of concern over the little fellas in recent years because of their decline, and the unsettling phenomenon of Colony collapse disorder (CCD), where worker bees in a colony abruptly disappear without a trace. The role of bees as pollinators makes this decline particularly worrisome; 80% of plant pollination is done by bees and other animals. Bees play an important part in pollinating crops such as melons, apples, blueberries and almonds to name a few. Though there is no one factor identified as the cause of CCD, there are several theories attributing the problem to infestation by Varroa mites, insect diseases, pesticide exposure, migratory beekeeping practices, and global warming, among others. The combination of such stressors would at the very least weaken the colonies, making them more susceptible to any further attacks. Though we keep our bees on an organic farm, there are many neighboring orchards where pesticides are definitely used. In past years, our colonies have not enjoyed much success, so this year’s off to a good start, with the bees already flying about ! I’m looking forward to spring, watching them leaving on their heroic ventures to visit a ton of flowers, and retuning with bright orange balls of pollen on their legs.