Here in Hampshire, we've had about 5" of snow locally over the last 24 hours with quite strong winds and as I write this it's snowing again. Many local roads are very icy making driving rather tricky, so earlier today we took a long walk to visit the bees at some of the local apiaries to do our weekly check on the bee hives in winter.
We visited the main apiary at midday and checked on the bees inside listening to them with the stethoscope as usual this time of year. I'm pleased that the polystyrene hives are working well as can be seen here where the snow on the top of the hive remains pristine even though the bees are clustered inside at a constant 20C plus just underneath the roof.
Keeping the bees in well-insulated hives like these enables the bees to keep warm through a long, cold winter without consuming all their stores.
It also encourages the Queen to start laying eggs for the new generation of workers several weeks ahead of those colonies in wooden hives.
We were surprised to see the odd bee leaving the hive entrance and flying around in front of the hive for about a minute before returning inside. We even saw one land on the snow and then take off again to return back inside. The books tell you that bees don't fly out when it's below about 5C, so clearly our bees have not been reading much lately!
Towards the end of the row of hives we came across an area of pristine snow and there dotted around here and there were little patches of brown bee poo. This space about 1m away from the nearest hive, was being used by the bees and after waiting a few seconds, sure enough a bee flew out of the nearest hive and did a poo over the snow before going back inside.
The bees were clearly taking their opportunity to clean up the colony, but I had no idea they were so keen to do so that they would go out in such cold conditions...