Welcome To Spring!

Welcome to the first day of spring!

festivalspringequinox

The vernal equinox occurred this morning (in case you felt something unusual happening…)

It’s the moment when the earth’s axis is not turned toward the sun (summer, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere), or away from it (winter), but is aligned with the center of the sun.

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The word equinox comes from Latin: aequus means equal, level, or calm; nox means night, or darkness. The equinox, in spring or fall, is a time when the day and night are as close to equal as they ever are, and when the hours of night are exactly equal for people living equidistant from the equator either north or south.

It also marks the date when gardeners begin their work for the growing season. Margaret Atwood wrote:

“Gardening is not a rational act. What matters is the immersion of the hands in the earth, that ancient ceremony of which the Pope kissing the tarmac is merely a pallid vestigial remnant. In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

The Return of Persephone

The Return of Persephone

People have celebrated the vernal equinox for centuries. For ancient cultures, the vernal equinox signaled that their food supplies would soon return.

Early Egyptians even built the Great Sphinx of Giza so that it points directly toward the rising sun on the day of the vernal equinox.

In Christianity, the vernal equinox is significant because Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.

The word Ostara is just one of the names applied to the celebration of the spring equinox. The Venerable Bede said the origin of the word is actually from Eostre, a Germanic goddess of spring. It is also the origin of our word Easter.

Ostara

Ostara

Spring equinox signals fertility, both for plants and animals.  In medieval societies in Europe, the March hare was viewed as a major fertility symbol — this is a species of rabbit that is nocturnal most of the year, but in March when mating season begins, there are bunnies everywhere all day long. The males are so frisky that they get frustrated when rebuffed by their mates, and bounce around erratically. Hence the expression “mad as a March hare.”

For years I believed that special astronomical properties of the vernal equinox make it possible to balance eggs on end. This year I found out it is totally untrue.

It’s actually possible to balance eggs on end any day of the year. It just takes a lot of patience and determination. There’s nothing magical about the vernal equinox that makes it any easier to balance an egg on end.

Bummer!

What To Do In The Hives In March

Bees in March

This is the month when colonies can die of starvation. If the bees do not have enough stored honey, they may need supplementary feeding.

This is of particular concern this year because the winter has been unseasonably warm in many areas.

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.

Besides consuming more honey due to increased flying — a behavior called “frivolous foraging” — honeybee colonies also eat more as reproduction kicks into high gear earlier than usual. Female worker bees huddle around the queen bee, whose primary job is to lay eggs, and keep her at a comfortable and constant 93 degrees. Male drones prepare to mate.

Make sure your bees have plenty to eat as we move into spring.  Don’t assume that a lot of activity around the hive means everything is fine inside.