climate disruption & our bees

bee on verbena

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It’s been an unusual winter – sparse snow and fluctuating temperatures. Our hives are spread out out on our small acreage and we monitor these weekly – especially when we notice bees out everywhere.

Normally over winter in New England, when temperatures are below 55 degrees, the hives go into dormancy. The hives rely on the stores in the hive bodies and do not forage in temperatures below 55 degrees. However with the fluctuations in temperature recently, the bees have been out and in again when the temperature plummets. This means they are using up their stores more rapidly without being able to replace these with pollen and nectar from a winter climate. And in the end – it’s a race against these climatic fluctuations. It’s a great concern for us on the farm.

Over the last decade, we have noticed a decline in our wild bee populations and pollinators in general. Our domesticated bees have suffered as well due to a confluence of parasitic and viral diseases, malnutrition, loss of genetic diversity, and pesticide exposure. At Agraria we try to breed bees that flourish in our microclimate, capture swarms to add diversity, and build resiliency in our hives. Working with these creatures can be frustrating – there is so much to learn and much of it is guesswork.

And in the end, we have no control over the climate, neighboring farm practices, and will always have a high learning curve about what the bees need to flourish. As we move into a new season on the farm, we are developing strategies formed over the last 15 years of keeping bees and are hopeful that we will make incremental progress in creating a sustainable, healthy apiary.

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