Tag Archives: Wintering

How to take a crop of heather honey

Ling heather (Calluna vulgaris) honey is out there on its own for flavour and character. It is rich, reddish amber in colour with a musky flavour; open the jar and the scent of the hills will fill the room. Turn the jar upside down and it won’t budge – this is because it is thixotropic – in other words it forms a viscous gel and will not flow which means it cannot be spun out of the frames like other honeys but has to be pressed from the comb or sold in the comb either as sections or cut-comb.

Heather honey is much sought-after (lovely heather honey recipe here) and commands a great price but to get a crop is not easy so the beekeeper needs to know about the Known Unknowns and Known Knowns. Not to mention the Unknown Unknowns. Continue reading How to take a crop of heather honey

How to overwinter an Apidea

At the end of the summer, it is not always possible to find a colony in need of a new queen, especially after a summer as good as this one (2014) when it seems all the queens mated well. Nor is it always possible to find colonies with sufficient sealed brood to make up a nuc without weakening them unduly before winter. So what to do with those last, late queens in your Apideas?

Here is the quandary I found myself in this year: I had several sad little queenless Apideas and two other strong ones, each with five frames (feeder removed) and with good laying queens in them. I can never quite face shaking the poor queenless bees out, nucs weren’t possible and there’s nothing so sad as watching an Apidea dwindle its way into winter with laying workers and a bellyful of slugs.

So here’s the recipe: Continue reading How to overwinter an Apidea

Winter Losses

It has been a good winter for the bees and there have been very few losses. However, what do you do if you find a hive of your bees has died out?

Well, the first thing to do is find out why they died because whatever killed them could still be lurking in there; if you can pin down the cause of death then you will know what to do with the hive.

Look for the two most obvious things first:

  • Starvation
  • Poor queen

Much will depend on the time of year they died… Continue reading Winter Losses

Hibernating Queen Wasps

Keep an eye out for hibernation queen wasps like these two in your hive roofs during your winter checks.  Note the poor squashed bees – sometimes this is unavoidable.

Hibernating Queen Wasps

What you do with them is up to you –  it’s always a dilemma for me. Remember that each one has the potential to create a huge wasp colony of perhaps 15,000 individuals and if you’ve had real wasp problems in the past you know what this can mean for the bees. However they are great in the garden in the early part of the year and only come into conflict with the bees in the late summer. If the bees are strong and you get your entrances narrowed down in time they will be able to defend themselves.

If there seem to be a lot of them you could prune them.

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Storm Damage

It hardly seems fair, after surviving all those terrible storms of January and February, that this huge oak branch should drop from the tree last Saturday (1st March)! The more avid bots and crawlers amongst you may recognise this apiary from a previous post of a sunny glade and the same hives with lots of honey on board.

But weren’t we lucky! Our farmer noticed the branch had dropped and let us know quite quickly – it only broke one hive and we rescued the bees.

Crushed Polystyrene Hive

First sight was horrific but closer examination showed only one hive seriously damaged – a polystyrene one. Part of the branch landed on the roof, breaking the hives stand and the front wall of the poly box popped out under the pressure followed by the first frame. Somehow the rest of the frames stayed in place and the bees were actively coming and going when we arrived to rescue them.

Another part of the same branch landed on a wooden hive (the white one near the centre of the main picture) and the metal top of the roof buckled a bit but managed to survive the blow intact. Polystyrene hives are certainly not as strong as wooden ones but in fairness, this one still had the strength to hold together somehow despite a blow strong enough to break the wooden hive stand.

The moral of this story is to keep checking your hives throughout the winter because sometimes storm damage doesn’t come to full fruition till some time after the event.

Copyright © Beespoke.info, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

Things to do in February

I was reading an article about wintering bees and the author said any fool could winter bees, whatever the winter and however poor the beekeeper. And he has a point. The reason being that in order to successfully winter bees you just have to leave them alone. Leave them alone – they know more about it than you do. Well he might be right but if you keep an eye on your bees there are things to be done to prevent the losses we saw in the winter of 2012/13. Continue reading Things to do in February

Bee Basics – Apiary Site

For anybody thinking about getting bees, an important consideration is – where to put them?

There is no perfect site for bees but there are points to consider – some affect the summering and some affect the wintering. It’s all swings and roundabouts (or snakes and ladders) with bees. Continue reading Bee Basics – Apiary Site

Winter Feeding of Bees

This autumn was a good one for the bees and they seem to have brought in plenty of ivy honey and the hives are very heavy now – at the end of December 2013.

However this is not always the case and December and January are months when the beekeeper needs to keep an eye on the winter stores. It is not possible to feed bees with syrup in the winter because they are simply unable to ripen it so instead if the hives seem light and the bees are clustered close to the top of the frames it will do no harm to put a lump of fondant over the feed hole in the crown board and cover it with a sheet of plastic to stop it from going hard.

If they seem on the edge of extinction, fondant should be placed directly onto the bees. You need to use your imagination and/or ingenuity here if the bees are not directly beneath a feed hole. It may be possible to turn the crownboard so that they are, or fondant can be flattened to a patty which can be placed under the crownboard.

Alternative place an eke on the brood box, then a cake of fondant covered in plastic is placed directly on the bees and the eke is filled up with old jumpers, blankets or sacking and the crownboard is put onto the eke.

Swienty are now selling 15kg blocks of Apifondant which can be set directly over the bees inside an eke as described above. Click here for details of those things

In February you might like to consider giving the bees a pollen supplement such as Neopoll which will give them an early boost. This is especially useful if you are considering taking bees to the oilseed rape as it should prompt the colony into early build-up. Click here for details of Neopoll from Swienty.

You can feed a light 1:1 (1kg:1litre or 1lb:1pint) sugar syrup from St.Patrick’s day onwards using a contact feeder. If you are using a specially prepared beefeed such as Ambrosia you could water this down with a little water for spring feeding.

Click here for how to prepare Wintering Bees

Click here for Michaelmas, bees and wintering

Click here for Which Feeder

Click here for how to feed a wintering apidea

Click here for mid-winter feeding of bees

Click here for mid-winter oxalic acid Varroa treatment

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