Who is that buzzing around?
Sweetening the way
Over the winter months there is still work to be done, to ensure that your colony make it through the cold, wet and dark months. During the summer, sugar syrup is used to supplement the bees, although they are out harvesting pollen, there are times when there are gaps, and they need a little helping hand. The syrup feeders are removed in the autumn as the chances of frosts begin to increase and they are replaced with a fondant; similar to what bakers who ice cakes use! This fondant acts as a backup in case there is not enough honey to see them through the leaner months.
Activity in the hive!
Several frames of honey are left in the Super Box and the Queen Board is removed to allow the Queen and all of the colony to have free access to the honey left in the frames and the fondant. The Brood Box is where the Queen lays her eggs and the mechanism for which the colony look after her.
Keeping an eye on the honey
The fondant is checked on warmer days, about once a month, as this gives the beekeeper the chance to see if the bees are feeding on the fondant which may indicate that they are running short of the honey which has been left for them.
All warm and snuggly!
Some beekeepers like to make sure that their colonies are kept very warm and snuggly over winter by wrapping the outside of the hive in a waterproof fleece. Interestingly, bees are very adept at keeping themselves warm by all clustering together in the hive surrounding the Queen, the bees on the outside move to the inside when they get cold, and this clever technique ensures that the hive manages to maintain a comfortable ambient temperature of 13 degrees C.
Mother nature is full of surprises
As if mother nature does not continue to surprise us all, Ted Hooper in his book ‘Guide to Bees and Honey’, recorded a hive with a cluster temperature of 31 degrees Celsius whilst the outside temperature was -28 degrees Celsius!!!
Welcoming the warmer weather
On warmer winter days and in early spring bees can be seen taking the opportunity to stretch their wings and have a little fly and they will also give the hive a clear out of any debris that has accumulated. For the beekeeper, winter is also a time of preparing for Spring. Usually this involves making up frames, cleaning and sterilising old frames and generally making sure that everything is all ready for when Spring properly decides to grace us; we are sure it will not be long now!!