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Midwinter Dreams

February 4, 2013

Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary

By Gunther Hauk

Reprinted from Spikenard Farm’s Winter 2013 newsletter (January 31)

spikenard hives in snow

Cold wind drives a dust of snow over the stark winter landscape, whistling around the hives, which stand like sculptures between the trees, adding a bit of culture to the frozen nature.

The colonies are tightly clustered, the individual bees forming a drop-shaped globe engulfing a number of honeycombs. Metabolic processes are low and movement of the individual bee is hesitant, in slow motion. Thus the cluster inches its way along the honey reserves, feeding enough in order to keep the little bodies from freezing. Wing muscles ‘shiver’ imperceptively, producing the warmth needed. In our zone 6 climate, this activity drastically increases toward the end of January/beginning of February, since at that time the sun’s arc has reached an important point after the winter solstice: it’s Groundhog Day, it’s Candlemas.

Forty days have elapsed since the sun has conquered darkness anew on December 25th, by gaining back nearly one minute of daylight in the three days after the winter solstice. It takes forty days (quarantine!) for something that goes outwardly unnoticed to become visible. Isn’t it a fact that for the first weeks in January it has been difficult to notice the rising power of the sun and then, all of a sudden toward the end of January, beginning February, it’s clear: the days are really longer, the sun’s rays warmer, the sun’s arc stands higher in the sky and the days have gained almost a full hour of light.

Life is beginning to stir in nature, often unnoticed by the city dwellers, or even by modern farmers only in tune with technology implemented to fulfill the tasks. It’s the time when birds begin their annual flirtatious behavior and the queen is laying the first eggs of the new year. Yes, it’s all about the birds and the bees. The colony’s new year has begun. These young worker eggs take three weeks to develop into full-fledged bees, and yet another three weeks before they become foragers and fly out to pollinate whatever blooms in nature. Hey, it’s mid-March by this time. How fortunate that the queen followed the sun and was not deterred by the freezing temperatures and snowdrifts!

Gunther Hauk has been an educator educator, biodynamic gardener/farmer, and beekeeper for nearly four decades. In 1996 he co-founded the Pfeiffer Center and built up one of the first biodynamic training programs in the US. Since that time he has been lecturing and giving workshops on biodynamic / sustainable beekeeping methods. His book Toward Saving the Honeybee was first published in 2002. Together with Vivian Struve-Hauk he co-founded Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary in 2006. Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary‘s mission is to promote sustainable and biodynamic beekeeping through education, experience-based research and a honeybee sanctuary, to help restore the health and vitality of the honeybee worldwide. Find out more at

One Comment leave one →
  1. permalink
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