There were people out everywhere: riding and walking around the lakes and along the river, sweeping sidewalks, just sitting in lawn chairs fetched from the garage to absorb the rays. Any excuse and no excuse at all were good enough to be out today.
The bees were taking great advantage of the weather, too. I'm not sure if all of the colonies had been out previously for a "cleansing flight" -honey bees don't poop all winter in the hive and on the first nice day in late winter will leave the comfort of the cluster to go out and poop en masse.
I do know this was not the first day for the white colony in our yard, which was out on Christmas Day, on Boxing Day and was out again a couple of weeks ago, but it was the first day out for the yellow colony for which I have been anxious since they were not out with the others.
I believe that the difference between the extra-apiary activity between the hives is that the white hive in in full sun and the yellow hive is in the sun for only a short part of the morning. Clearly the white hive is warmer and the bees are more active.
The great news for Spring 2012 is that all but one of the urban colonies made it through the winter! This is in stark contrast to 2011, when every last urban colony died. Frankly, this comes as an enormous relief to me, since it was emotionally ruinous to lose that many colonies last year. I was actually dragging my feet getting out to the bee yards this spring because I really didn't want to face that kind of devastation again.
The one hive that I lost, the Hilty hive, starved to death. This hive is in partial sun all day long, under a large Silver Maple tree. Many of the bees were dead on the comb still in good enough shape that they seemed to be frozen in place, but handfuls here and there were in the classic starvation pose, head-down in a cell trying to get the very last bit of honey out.
I can't be certain when these bees died; the bodies were not in any way decomposed, and the strange thing was that there were small pools of thin honey on the tops of several frames, but still. I should have checked on these bees a month ago. I am not surprised that finding a lost colony doesn't get any easier for me even with experience.
One of the things that this winter has shown me is that beekeeping is a fickle science, if what I am doing can even be called a science. In the fall I purposely wrapped some hives, placed entrance reducers and moisture boards and all, as advised. Other hives I left unwrapped and put in mouse barriers, which reduced the amount of wind that could get in the hive, but didn't block the entrance like a reducer does. Some hives were in full sun, some in partial sun, some in majority shade. All hives had what I hoped would be adequate stores of honey.
I worried during the winter, especially after seeing my white colony out numerous times, that the bees would be more active than usual due to the warmer-than-normal temperatures and the lack of snow. I was anxious that this greater activity might lead to the bees going through their stores of honey faster than usual. Perhaps this was the case with the Hilty hive?
Consequently, tomorrow all of the hives will be given pollen patties (to build up the protein in the bees to prepare them for brood care) and a bucket of sugar syrup to get them through until the first bloom, which in Minnesota is usually early April. We know, however, that there is NOTHING USUAL about this winter, so it might be earlier.