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Looking after the Bees

It’s the end of January and not a time I’d be bothering with the bees all snuggled up and keeping warm over winter normally. This year though is different. The mild winter and the spells of warm temperatures have tricked the bees into thinking that there is no winter. They have still been out and about during the September to now period which is where they normally stay in because of the cold. This means that they haven’t recognised the winter and reduced their numbers to allow them to survive with no food being available to be collected.

Just been out checking today and they are still fairly active. Instead of being in a nice ball to keep warm they are still wandering all over the frames building new comb and although they are at reduced numbers they look like at late summer strength. Definitely not winter strength and certainly well above the numbers for the available food. They will be relying on their stored food for survival.

I’m pretty lucky. Because I don’t take all the honey away at the end of the summer they still have all the food they need. Most beekeepers take the honey away for themselves and leave enough for a reduced hive or for those that take it all they have to feed the bees over the winter. With hives not being on reduced bee levels many will not have left enough for the bees in the hive. For those who are feeding anyway they will have to feed more than normal but should detect that when they check feeding levels. Being paranoid of course I’m feeding my bees now as well just in case although so far they have not touched it relying on what they have in their own stores.

I’m guessing that means that this year they will get off to a quick start, unless we have a really cold snap for a few weeks, and I’m planning on taking advantage of that by splitting my hives early on. I’ve already procured the new hives plus all the fittings and treated them for the British weather. They are now ready to go and I will place them over the next few months so when the weather does start to improve I can then split the existing hives doubling the number of hives in my apiary.

If I do it early enough then I have the capability of repeating any splits where there are issues and the splits don’t make it. Although I have done it twice before from my original hive to bring me where I am now and those went well you can never be certain and having contingency is always good or if I want I could even split again anyway for a further increase in the number of hives I have.

So current situation is that I am ready for this years beekeeping and ready to move when the time is right and in the meantime I must continue checking on the bees to make sure that they don’t run out of food. If they start eating the feed I must keep it topped up until food is available from nature.

Looks like it could be a good year for the bees and my apairy.

4 comments to Looking after the Bees

  • Fred

    Is your honey all honeycomb or is some liquid enough to be in jars?

  • Skean Dhude

    The bees treat it and turn it into a liquid which they store in the honeycomb and seal up by capping it. It will then set and is fine in there until it is needed by the bees who uncap it and extract the honey for use or we come along and extract the honey for our use and store it in a jar.

    Honey is usually liquid but the output from some plants sets more solid. Rape honey sets hard when in the hive and is difficult to extract for both us and the bees. Garden flowers give a clear liquid honey. As the bees usually bring the nectar from different plants most of us have a blend of honey in the one hive and the consistency is uncertain.

    There are charts so beekeepers can analyse their honey stores but as with many things it is all down to location. If you live next to a rape field you will likely get hard honey. Live next to an fruit orchard you will get fruit based honey which is more liquid like the honey you get in the shops except better tasting as it is not blended with lots of different types.

  • Fred

    So they don’t excrete into jars then? Also, have you used this tree honey I’ve been reading about?

  • Skean Dhude

    Bees do excrete but that is just because they are alive. The honey production is separate.

    Tree honey? If you mean honey from the flowers on trees then honey bees already forage and produce honey from them.

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