The bee colony lives according to the rhythms of the seasons, with each organism’s own life cycle, the ability to be born, live, reproduce and die.
This organization is subject to 2 important factors:
– The climate
– The environment
They have a direct impact on the life of the hive. This is also why it is important to choose :
– Bees adapted to your region.
– An environment favorable to bees with a large quantity of flowers throughout the season.
The activity of the colony is reduced to its maximum. There is no or very little brood. They are mainly concerned with maintaining the temperature of the cluster (tightening phenomenon to conserve heat) at a minimum of 13°. This heat is obtained by the shivering of the muscles. For this they need energy (honey).
The bees live on their reserves accumulated during the rest of the season. It is therefore essential for the beekeeper to check the honey reserves of his hives before winter. The colony consumes on average ~1kg of honey per month.
When the weather warms up, a few outings are observed to make propter flights (defection) and take the waste out of the hive.
Winter bees are born in the fall and can have a life span of 6 months. They are replaced by summer bees from February/March (depending on the region) when the queen starts laying again. As soon as there is brood, the temperature around the brood in the center of the nest is maintained at 10-35°C
This is a delicate period for the colony which can simply disappear.
– the condition of the winter bees (winter wear)
– of provisions
– certain parasites (such as varroa destructor)
In the Spring
Once March has passed, the summer bees take over from the winter bees and start the colony again for a new season. Fresh pollen and nectar flow into the hive to feed and nourish the brood.
At a rate of 2000/3000 eggs per day during the month of March, the queen is able to revive and prepare the colony for the first honey flows of the year.
At the beginning of April, we can see 4 to 6 frames of brood on average for a Dadant hive. The first males are visible, which indicates that the colony has all the necessary elements to develop in good condition.
This is the development period. The colony will continue to grow to reach its peak at the summer solstice around June 21. In late spring the foragers outnumber the workers.
May/June is also the period of swarming (departure of a part of the colony to found a new one), the young bees can decide to replace the queen for the following reasons
– The queen is awake(supersedure)
– Development of the colony(swarming)
– Wounded or dead queen(Rescue breeding)
Swarming is an impressive phenomenon that is part of the natural life cycle of bees. As the colony prospers and grows, the young bees will begin to feed the queen less, which will have a direct impact on the production of pheromones in the queen, she will even stop laying eggs, giving the colony a feeling of orphanhood.
At this time the colony will start up several queen cells. A few days before the emergence of the new queen, about half of the workers gorge themselves with honey (the crop thus filled crushes the sting, they practically do not sting), the current queen is put on a diet to recover her flight capacities. At this stage, the queen leaves to form a new colony (swarm of bees). This is how the colonies multiply.
The new colony, must in a few hours find a place allowing him to found a new habitation. To do this, she must quickly make new wax combs and start bringing in supplies for the breeding and survival of the colony.
In the old colony the first virgin queen to emerge from her cell will eliminate her competitors. A few days later, she will make a fertilization flight. On her return she will continue the life of her colony.
After a honey flow trough in June (depending on the region) and after the summer solstice, egg laying decreases as well as the number of bees in the hive. The first summer bees are disappearing.
A new “summer” honeyflow follows, the colony is in full work. Reserves are building up again.
During the hot summer months the workers will regulate the temperature of the nest to avoid exceeding 36°C. At this point, water harvesting is paramount.
At the end of August, the males are expelled from the hive, considered as useless mouths to feed for the survival of the colony. The queen slows down her laying again. The colony is getting ready for winter.
In the Fall
The days are getting shorter, the temperatures are progressively decreasing, the last beautiful days allow the bees to accumulate the last reserves to go through the winter despite a relatively weak spring flora. Colonies are much less active and the queen lays her last eggs until October/November depending on the region to provide the last winter bees whose larvae are fed with more proteins, which contributes to their longevity.