We are ready for spring – how about you?? Hadleigh Burch of A Little Wild Farm shared a beautiful story of how spring feels and the fresh start for the bees.
Article originally appeared in our Spring 2021 Issue of Trailblazher Magazine.
I think perhaps spring is a feeling you get before it becomes an actual season. You feel it first as the morning light starts to peek behind window curtains earlier, throwing golden rays across cozy bedding and warm, sleeping bodies. You feel it in a daytime walk through the woods, as warm rays shine upon your face and prickle little beads of sweat across your brow as you trudge through forgotten snow, cool and protected in the cold shadows of giant poplars. It is there in the woods that you find the last of winter’s clutches and the beginning of spring’s reign. You feel it in the warm breeze that caress your face, in the smell of dirt as snow melts away and in the energy of the world around you as ever so slowly, Mother Nature awakes.
Here on our farm spring floats in on the wings of the honeybees. On a day when the sun shines warm upon the hives and stays golden in the sky for longer, little busy bees take flight on their first forages of the season. If you happen to be walking through the apiary, or perhaps while daydreaming in the garden, you are sure to bump into a busy little worker bee in flight as they bounce and buzz overhead in every direction.
All winter, an all-female swarm of bees inside the hive have crowded together forming a cluster around their queen, using their body heat from shaking and shivering to keep themselves and their majesty warm. Populations in the hive drop drastically in the fall in preparation for the long winter ahead, and it takes each worker bee inside the hive to do their part to survive. Banding together, these ladies endure the long, cold, dark days of winter – counting on one another to see the light of spring.
When daylight slowly begins to grow longer and the temperatures start to rise, the hive comes alive once more. The protected queen bee begins a laying frenzy, the worker bees ready the hive for new arrivals, and the population begins to increase with each day. The bees know that once food storages become available, it will take an army to replenish the hive they have depleted over their winter stay. This makes spring such a crucial time for honeybees, especially in Alberta where our winters can be long and drawn-out. I think we all appreciate the need to get out and enjoy that spring sunshine and warmth after a long Canadian winter, just like the bees.
One of the first things we watch for each spring that marks a turning point in the seasons is the budding of the willow trees with pussywillows. For our bees this will become the first source of food available, their lifeline for survival. A telltale sign that spring has arrived in the apiary is that first sighting of what we lovingly call pollen pants. Foraging bees pack pollen and nectar into baskets on their hind legs, which allows them to carry it back to their hives. Imagine bright, yellow saddlebags hanging off the back of the honeybee – that is exactly what pollen pants look like!
Watching as the hives come alive with spring brings a sense of hope and excitement to the season. After a long winter of waiting with bated breath to see which colonies survived, finally seeing bees about the yard foraging and spring cleaning the hives, allows us the chance to breathe once again. It ignites in us the hope for what is to come – a fresh start, a clean slate, a blank canvas. It sets into motion a cascade of events to welcome a new season.
From cracking open the greenhouse doors for the first time, the smell of soil meeting you with warmth, to watching the ground appear from beneath blankets of snow in the garden, waiting to be turned and worked and sowed. It marks the time to dig-out all the seed trays laying empty in cupboards and shelves, planting those first seeds, and covering the kitchen table with tray-upon-tray of seedlings. It’s the anticipation of those first farm fresh eggs reappearing in the coop after a winter-long hiatus and looking forward to a breakfast feast from the farm.
Spring is most definitely a feeling before it becomes a season and as I sit and watch the bees hard at work, the sun warm upon my face, I feel content, hopeful, thankful and alive with the thoughts and possibilities spring brings.
What does spring feel like to you?