"For beekeepers, this winter’s unseasonably warm temperatures — a blessing for most of us — have actually been a killer.
Beekeepers are used to the typical threats: colony collapse, varroa mites and cold snaps in the spring, to name a few. The warm winter, however, may pose the biggest threat to New Jersey’s honeybees this year.
Usually semi-dormant in winter, the bees instead have been buzzing around, burning up calories and eating their way through the honey reserves in their hives that are supposed to last until spring.
'Cold is not what kills bees,' said state apiarist Tim Schuler, aka New Jersey’s top bee guy, at the Department of Agriculture. 'Running out of food is what kills bees.'
It’s not that unusual for beekeepers to sometimes add small amounts of dried sugar or bee candy, also called fondant, to their hives as insurance, said Bill Coniglio, president of the association and also an entomologist.
Typically in the winter, bees stay inside the wooden box hives except for occasional cleansing flights. Each flight increases the risk that upon return, the bees could end up huddling in the wrong parts of the hive, where honey has been depleted. Then if the temperature suddenly drops, as it’s done several times even during recent warm spells, the bees won’t move around and essentially get trapped, said P.J. Martin, a beekeeper of 10 years in Springfield."
Mild winter has proven fatal for countless N.J. honeybees
By Eunice Lee/The Star-Ledger