The planet is our home; we need to be more responsible. Here's what I do.
As the temperature starts to drop and the leaves start to fall it’s time to prepare the hives for winter.
A beekeeper assesses the hive and checks whether the bees have good food supplies.
This year has been very strange for bees. The non-existent winter and mild spring enabled many plants to flower and fruit unusually early here.
But this seems to have meant that the crops and flowers finished fruiting early too.
Consequently our bees have been left with less foraging.
We believe this has led to one colony having European Foul Brood. This disease strikes weakened hives.
But we tackled it securely and the bees are doing well.
When we assessed this hive a few weeks ago it was clear that their food supplies were low.
So we have been feeding them for about three weeks. They have consumed plenty of sugar water. So at the weekend, we took the feeder away.
Meanwhile it was a good time to add insulation to the hive.
Through the winter, bees continue to sustain the hive temperature at approximately 34 degrees. Bee keepers should avoid disturbing the hive and releasing warmth.
The bees themselves reduce their activity and use various strategies to keep the hive warm.
They use body tremoring, they block holes or cracks with propylis, and this includes reducing the hive entrance if necessary. They focus themselves in a concentrated dense cluster and use similar techniques to penguins where they take turns to move to the centre of the cluster so they don’t get cold on the edge.
As bee keepers we provide foam insulation.
Other winter precautions can include taking care to secure the hive against wind with straps and guy ropes.
In one of our other hives we’ve woven a screen from bramble and raspberry stick prunings. It helps to shield the hive entrance from any snow glare. The bees can be fooled by bright light into exploring in unsuitably cold temperatures which can lead to high losses.
We have also used a jute sack of fine wood shavings to provide insulation too.
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