Feb 14th, north Oxfordshire. Our village is in a gentle valley which acts as a bit of a frost pocket – generally colder and damper than south Oxfordshire. Today, the sun shone brightly, there was no wind or rain, the last of the snow from the early part of the week melted. And even though there were a couple of patches of snow in the shade near the hive, as the temperature hit 10C, out they came!
Watching for a while, I saw no sign of wing damage (varroa) though I’m not sure they’d emerge if they could not fly. The trickle of bees turned into a torrent and I unblocked the entrances for a while. Everyone seemed calm and happy (few stores or young to protect – and have not been interfered with for a long time). The small, new bees – which seem generally lighter coloured than the ones of late autumn / winter – tended to sun themselves for a short while, then jumped off and flew for a short while (voiding / orientation flights) and then settled, looking somewhat exhausted, for a bit more sunning or scampered back into the hive. They also washed their faces a lot – anthropomophising, it looked a bit like they were rubbing their eyes, dazzled by the sunshine!
Checking again a couple of hours later there were just a few bringing bright orange pollen back, a good sign indicating they are preparing to bring up young and all is well with the queen. I held a pollen ID chart in front of the entrances and snapped some photos. There are no dandelions in this area yet but we do have crocus and snowdrop beginning to flower nearby: