Happy New Year!
It is that time of year when very little can be seen to be happening around the hives.
On the occasional warm days the bees will emerge for a cleansing flight or collect water but there are few flowers about as of yet. Snowdrops are starting to appear above ground just before the next cold spell.
Don’t be alarmed if you see quite a few dead bees on the ground at the front of the hive. The colony will be clearing out the older deceased bees to try and keep their house in good clean order. You may notice the winter birds taking advantage of this winter food, well those they can get at due to the wire netting around the hives.
I recently visited a members Apiary to heft the hives and ensure they have plenty of stores for these difficult next few weeks only to find the Woodpecker had started to examine the hives ready for their winter feed. Needless to say Rabbit wire has been purchased and two and a half metres of free standing wire now surrounds each hive. You have been warned and with the impending winter weather that is on its way the Woodpeckers will be short of food.
When hefting hives to ensure they have plenty of stores please think to wear that veil. If you find a hive that is short of food but full of bees not in cluster, then you may be pounced on if trying to add a lump of candy.
As it has been a mild winter so far, Queens will have continued to breed and a lot of stores will have been consumed. It is therefore the strongest hives that will starve the quickest!
January is a good time to check your equipment and see what you are going to need for the season ahead. The Bee Equipment manufacturers are in the middle of their sales and there will be a few bargains around. You could team up with a fellow Beekeeper and save on the postage. An alternative is of course is to order equipment and then collect it at the Beetradex show at Stoneleigh (2017 date is Saturday 4th March).
If the winter weather does deliver any heavy snow just ensure your hives are weather proof but leave well alone. With the varroa floors most of us use these days ventilation will not be a problem. A strong hive can cope with our cold weather it is the damp and lack of stores that will do them more harm.
Next month will discuss what to do when you find a deceased colony. We will all have some I am sure badly mated Queens or Beekeeper failures abound!