My goddaughter Ashley and her mom came to visit me this past Saturday. She's 16 and able bodied. I'm 52 and still hopping around on one leg with a walker after my ankle surgery of Dec. 16th, 2013. We've had tons of snow, so I've neither been out of the house in 6 weeks, nor checked on my poor little bee hives in the backyard.
Ashley likes bees. She also likes being helpful. (Such a wonderfully rare teenager!) I saw she had good winter boots with nice traction on the soles. I seized the moment! "Ashley, would you go check my hives and see if any bees are being kicked out of the hive onto the front landing board or in front of the hive on the ground?" An enthusiastic "SURE!" was her reply.
If you see dead bees recently kicked out in front of the hive, the colony is still alive. I have my doubts after those severely cold temperatures of last week down below 0*F. But, I'd sure love to know what's going on out there, and last week we had two upper 50*F days. If anybody is alive, they would have taken cleansing flights and the mortuary bees would have cleaned out any dead or decaying bees. So, I asked her to also look for little flecks or specks on the front of the hive. These specks would indicate their fecal material while cleansing. They don't go far. It's still too cold.
Liza, her mom looked at me and said, "will she get stung?". "Oh no! It's much too cold for them to fly today. She's fine," I replied. Ashley bounded down the backyard terraced stairs to go to the hives. Her mom and I sat on the couch in front of the fireplace with my injured foot propped up and drank coffee while chatting. Ashley was gone a long time, and we kind of forgot about her.
I suddenly heard, "Kathy, look!" Here was Ashley returning with a worker bee in the palm of her hand. "Where did you get her, Ashley?" "She was on the front porch (landing board) of hive 2." "No kidding?! That means someone is inside surviving and getting enough honey to stay warm and function enough to kick her dead sisters out! That's good news! I didn't think they would survive those temperatures last week!" Liza and I resumed our conversation and Ashley sat in the rocking chair with the bee in her palm and rocked and watched it.
"KATHY! She's moving!" "What?" "She's not dead, she's moving!" "Really?" "Yes, look!" And, sure enough, the bee had sat in Ashley's warm palm and in front of the fireplace long enough that she was starting to move her legs. (The room temperature was about 70*F.) She was not moving fast, by any means, but just as if she were in the last throes of death and grasping at the warmth the new environment provided. "Now, can she sting her?," asked Liza. "hmmm,...she's not moving too fast!", I said; "well, I think she must have been one of the bees on the outer edge of the overwintering cluster surrounding the queen in the hive, and she took the brunt of these recent cold temperatures trying to keep her queen and other sisters warm; and then, she must have fallen from the cluster to the bottom board where it was colder; her sisters thought she was dead and kicked her out." "Can I keep her?," asked Ashley. "No!," said Liza! "She really won't survive away from her hive," said I, "but if you get her warm enough to walk, you might try placing her back in the hive, and perhaps she will rejoin the cluster." So Ashley blew warm air on her and ran back down to the hive and held her a bit longer and then gently placed the little honey bee back in the entryway and tried to encourage her to walk inside and rejoin her family. But, we took some photos first.