I am quite numerate. In fact numbers often make more sense to me than words. As all beekeepers know, there are key temperatures in the bees’ world. They need to keep the brood at temperatures of about 35 degrees; they don’t fly much below 12 degrees and preferably more. So I hungrily devour all the nuances of all the forecasts that seem to give clues of what I should expect as the environment for the hives and the threats and possibilities. Some of these facts I have incorporated into a
which I thought we could mount near a thermometer for our Hughenden Manor bee project.
One of the blogs I follow explained graphically and elegantly how when poor weather and temperatures exist, a virgin queen could miss all chances for mating due to poor weather and temperatures (thanks Miss Apis Mellifera) . I incorporated this knowledge and compared that with the weather forecast temperatures imagining myself in similar situations if this dull weather continues.
I have been taking some stats about my hives, the temperature and weather and the number of bees flying and comparing it with forecast temperatures, times of day and more.
I should have trusted my instincts. The LCD thermometers I purchased and was using in logging activity near the hives seemed to give temperatures way above those from the weathermen and I realised that it was some sort of solar gain and I needed to take the temperature in the shade. However, it was only when it was stated quite clearly, in connection with temperatures for mating queens, that the critical guideline temperatures (mating at about 18 degrees) could still occur even if the weatherman is talking about temperatures closer to 11 degrees. The weather data relates to SHADE temperatures and we all know that sheltered places facing south can be a lot warmer. (And I really should know as we have solar panels and frequently generate great amounts of electricity on cold winter days with sunshine). Bees are even more savvy about these things than we are even though they don’t have access to our weather forecasts. The wise beeks on the Beekeepers Forum in a trhead called cold weather mating are quite convinced that a drone congregation area will form as bees harness all sorts of beneficial aspects of sun, aspect and shelter meaning that mating CAN occur at much lower temperatures than we think. I hope this brings some realistic hope to those who are really worried about their new queens at the moment. There is also a suggestion that though the norm and probably preferred form of mating takes place in flight at Drone Congregation Areas, when temperatures are less favourable apiary vicinity mating takes place. see Dave Cushman
I linked before to an amazing video of bees mating which I cannot now locate on the internet
And this video, though less dramatic, adds context
It seems to me that we can think more about the ideal layout of an apiary and perhaps even try to identify whether there could be a drone congregation area handy. I feel this will run to more than one post!