Checking on the Bees
After the recent storms and flood damage everywhere, we’ve been wondering how our bees have been faring. It has been a funny ‘winter’ so far as it has just been really mild and really wet. The bottom of the garden, where our beehives are is still waterlogged and flooded, but with wellies on I can get to it without too much trouble.
These conditions aren’t ideal for bees. We actually had a discussion about this at a recent ABKA study group and concluded that cool winters are actually better for bees than mild damp ones. During cold winters the bees huddle together in a cluster to keep warm, and pretty much shut down. There is very little activity in the hive other than the clustering to keep warm. This means they use very little energy and don’t have to keep raiding their limited supplies of stores. During mild winters however the bees are a little more active and may be moving around in the hive or even out flying. They’ll therefore need more food and will soon deplete their stores which can lead to a very real risk of starvation. It was thought that bees rarely die of the cold, but instead die of starvation. The damp nature of Mid Wales doesn’t help matters either as this simply creates an environment within the hive ripe for the development of mould, rot and diseases.
So far here in Wales, the temperature has remained mild all winter, it has been wet and windy and people have been reporting that their bees have been out flying on a number of occasions. All of which isn’t great news for us as bee-keepers.
Today is actually quite a nice day though, the clouds have cleared, the rain has stopped for once and the winds have eased. This meant that I was able to get down for a quick check on the bees. I didn’t have a close look, as I still don’t want to disturb them too. In the first hive (Clettwr), the bees were down in the brood box and the super above them seemed empty. I therefore slotted some chunks of fondant between a couple of super frames so that it was resting on top of the brood frames right above the cluster. Some bees came to life as I did so and started moving onto the fondant.
In the second hive (Leri), the bees were right at the top by the crown board so I didn’t even take the crown board off, just gave them some more fondant to add to what was left there already. Once again, bees started coming out onto the crown board to investigate as I did so.
I have no idea how many bees are in either of the hives or their state of heath, but at least there are still living bees in both of them. We’ll just have to keep an eye on their levels of fondant over the coming weeks and keep them topped up with as much as possible so as to hopefully get them through to Spring.
Who knows what the weather will bring in the next couple of months and how the bees will fare? We’ll consider it a success if we get through to the Spring with two colonies, and then who knows,we may be able to make increase in the summer with some careful splitting and artificial swarming. I’m sure the bees will have other ideas though and as per usual any plans we have will be dictated by whatever they decided is best.
In the meantime we can only prepare for the oncoming bee-keeping season. It’s time to check and clean our equipment and take stock of what we have and what we’ll need. It’s probably a good time to clean our bee-keeping suits too so that we can start afresh with clean hygienic bee-keeping equipment for 2014. Let’s hoe it’s a good year for bees.