Springtime in the Rockies
It’s that time of year. And Wyoming is a tough place to be at this time. All those imported trees and flowers are blooming ready for the bees. But this year, like almost every Wyoming year I can remember, it won’t be so.
For you see, this time of year, it’s three to four days of snow. Followed by a high 50F degree calm day. Followed by a windy day with highs in the 60’s F and wind gusts above 40mph. Which is all followed by another round of 30F to 40F degree snowy weather.
Yep it’s four more inches of snow tonight. Seven more inches tomorrow. Followed by a couple more inches after that. Near the mountains, where I live, it will be double that. And there’ll be gusty winds above 30mph. It’s springtime in the Rockies!
It’s tough on the plants, the bees and the beekeeper. I always remind myself that, with one year’s exception, I’ve always cut lilac blossoms in a foot of heavy, wet, cold snow. And it will be awhile before the lilacs bloom.
Rocky Mountain Bees
Springtime is a rocky time for bees here. Most people think the bees struggle through the winter. But with enough feed and shelter from the wind, the bees do well. They hunker down. Reduce activity and broodnest temperature. Consume little food. And raise just a small amount of brood. They weather a Wyoming winter easily.
But spring is another matter. Activity increases. The bees consume massive amounts of food and water. The overwintered bees need it to keep the broodnest near 95F for all that new brood which will soon replace them. You see, those overwintered bees are old bees. They will expend themselves rearing a new generation which will wing it to new spring pollen and nectar sources.
It’s been almost seven months since the bees have seen any blooming flowers. Everything must be right. Any unforeseen problems now and the hive will perish. Unlike warmer climates, there’s little a beekeeper can do here at this time of year. Any intervention now will cause more harm than good. It’s just too cold, wet and windy to work bees.
The weather in Delta Junction, Alaska, where I ran a small sideline outfit years ago, is more settled and warmer than Wyoming this time of year. And the bee season is just about over in Florida, my last haunt, as they are approaching their burning summer dearth. I suspect the rest of the country is somewhere in between with queens being reared and mated. Swarms being gathered. Flowers being pollinate. And honey gathered. A new season of life, of expectation, of joy is well under way.
But in Wyoming winter weather still claws at the granite rock and sagebrush plains. Our high elevation and location directly below the jet stream, allows the battle between warm and cold air to continue a little longer. Our seasonal rebirth is still a brood cycle away.
But for the survivors, this new snow is life. It will slowly melt it’s way from the mountains. Cascade down clear mountain streams to reservoirs below, fueling new life and hope along the way. Then when the summer sun threatens to scorch everything away, it’s cool flow will extend life throughout the rest of the season.
In Wyoming there’s an expression, “Let Er Buck”. It normally refers to another kind of wrangling. But for a Wyoming bee wrangler it best refers to the our spring weather. And I’ll be riding her out.