What happens in Spring?
When the temperature is above 7-8 Celsius the bees wake up and start their work. A bee family has about 20.000 working bees in early spring. The bees have been waiting through winter in the beehive and in the center of the bees is the queen, well protected from the cold.
In the first month of spring the bees gather pollen, especially the yellow catkins of the willows give an important source of protein. If you get a close look at a bee near a willow tree, you'll see it wearing big pants filled with golden pollen. The bees, who are fed with pollen in spring, are the same who are pollinating the fruit trees in April and May. While gathering pollen the working bees are vey busy, they have to fly 20.000 trips to cover the need of pollen for the beehive. If it is raining, the bees have to use the deposits from the previous years. But when summer arrives they can gather more pollen than they use.
|bees gathering water|
The Queen bee lays 200 eggs in each 24 hours during April. Almost all eggs are working bees, unfertilized eggs are male bees or drones. They must be hatched in April to reach maturity for the swarming season in May. All the other eggs are female bees, but only the Queen bee can lay eggs.
When summer is near the number of bees in the family have raised till 60.000 - and with so many bees in the same family, the Queen bee cannot control them anymore. The working bees build one or several special cells - Queen cells. They are larger than the working cells and hang down vertical. The Queen bee lays a common fertilized egg in the queen cells. When the eggs are hatched the larvae is fed with a special fodder - gele royal . This makes the larvae grow fast and be larger than the working bees. The larvae will become a new Queen.
Before the new Queen leaves her cell, the old Queen collects about half her subjects and leaves the beehive - she knows, she will lose to the new Queen if she stays. The old Queen and her following subjects gather in one big brown living lump upon a tree or a branch. During the next many hours some bees fly to and fro the place of residence, they are scouts looking for a new place where the bee family can live. When they come back to the other bees they tell them about their discoveries by dancing a special dance outside the lump. And when many scouts are dancing the same dance, they are telling about the same place. The big swarm flies up again and leaves and the scout bees fly through the swarm again and again to lead them to their new residence.
Source: Naturstyrelsen, Miljøministeriet: Forår, Bierne summer.
photo: grethe bachmann
photo: yellow flower and bee: stig bachmann nielsen, naturplan.dk