The weather has been warm, warm enough for the honeybees to break out of their winter cluster and leave the hive.

Their numbers are not nearly what they were last fall. Many bees have died off over the frigid winter months, their small bodies rolled to the front of the hive and dropped over the edge by the house-cleaning brigade on those few warm winter days.

Several bees line up at the hive’s front entrance and peer outside into the creek valley day. They are hungry. The hive’s honey stores are running low, but today the sky is gray and the ground in front of the hive is covered with puddles that shimmer with falling raindrops. The bees do not venture out. Then the rain begins to fall in earnest, and the bees retreat inside.

It seems as though the entire hillside behind the apiary has turned into a shallow waterfall. When the water reaches the sloping upper field, it flows between the blades of new spring grass before heading down to the lower fields and the creek just beyond. The creek roars.

The downpour does not last long. The bees return to the hive’s front porch. The rain stops, but the creek continues to rush wildly south to the river.

First one little bee, and then another, takes flight. They head out from the front entrance in a beeline, straight as an arrow and banking slightly upward, until they are about 10 feet away from their hive, and then they veer off.

The beekeeper smiles to herself, remembering her mother, many, many years ago, telling her to make a beeline and march right upstairs and clean up her room without any dawdling at all.

The beekeeper walks out across the upper field, looking at the ground. She walks down to the creek, searching for signs of the first spring flowers.

She knows that the bees love the early spring dandelions. She has watched as a bee lands on a dandelion head and throws herself down into the flower petals to emerge covered in precious orange pollen, but the beekeeper does not see any signs of dandelion.

Not yet.

The beekeeper walks along the edges of the fields, peering past the prickly multiflora rose vines that seem to reach out and grab at her clothes.

As much as the beekeeper dislikes the sharp thorns, she is still thankful that the bees love to gather the yellow rose pollen as they alight on the white flower petals. The beekeeper looks but sees no signs of swelling flower buds. She knows that there will not be any rose blooms for the hungry bees for perhaps another month or two.

The beekeeper looks for signs of emerging phlox, snowdrops, daffodil and bluebell but sees none.

Not yet.

This is that fragile time of year, when the bees’ honey stores run low, but the valley flowers have not yet bloomed. It is that fragile time of year when the beekeeper keeps a careful watch on her hives, if necessary feeding the bees just a bit of last year’s jarred honey.

Too much easy food would encourage the queen to start to lay brood, and with laid brood, the worker bees would not return to their protective cluster in a cold spell.

The workers would rather try to keep the brood warm and expend needed energy, and both bees and brood would die. So the beekeeper maintains her careful watch as she and her bees wait patiently for spring.

And yes, it is raining again, and the creek still roars.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in Ohio. Visit them on the web at