March in the Beehive

What are the bees up to inside the hive in March? They are starting to get ready for spring! They will sometimes fly out of the hive on warm days, as you can see here - read on to find out why!

Unlike other insects, honeybees don't go dormant for winter...instead they stay awake inside the hive, eating honey, and waiting for spring. You can learn all about bees in the winter by checking out our blog post Winter Bees: How Honeybees Survive the Winter.

Over the course of the winter, the colony gets smaller and smaller as the bees gradually reach the end of their lifespans. In March, the queen will start laying eggs again, in preparation for spring. The queen does this slowly at first, so as to not lay more eggs than the colony can keep warm. The winter bees become responsible for incubating the brood ('brood' is the beekeeper term for developing larva). As the temperatures get warmer and the colony gets bigger, the queen can start laying eggs in larger sections of the empty honeycomb. Come spring, the colony's population will quickly increase, especially as the first flowers bloom and the newly hatched spring bees start bringing fresh nectar and pollen back to the hive.

Cleansing Flights

On mild winter days in March, when it is sunny, the bees will sometimes fly out of the hive. This usually happens when the daytime temperatures are above zero (maple syrup season).

Up until now the bees have been stuck inside the hives and they take the opportunity in March to take short cleansing flights - aka bathroom breaks. These cleansing flights are very important for the hive to remain healthy. They've been holding it in for months and make a quick flight to do their business, leaving little specks of yellow in the snow. The bees will also take advantage of the warmer temperatures to do a bit of spring cleaning. Over the course of winter, debris and dead bees have piled up on the hive's bottom board, and the bees use the warmish days to start taking out the trash.

This is what cleansing flights look like on the snow: