Winter Checks

We usually try to avoid opening our hives at all during winter. this is because the bees ahve done their best to seal up the hives and settle down, and any disturbances are likely to be to their detriment. However there are times when winter visits are necessary.

Today we made a quick visit to check on the food stores in the hives. A poor summer meant less honey stores in the hives, and a very mild Autumn and winter means the bees will have been more active - and active bees consume more food.

The first thing we look for is activity at the entrance. As the air temperature was around 6°C, there was some activity at the entrance. This can often be enough to see that the bees are alive and healthy, if we don't need to inspect.

The next step is hefting the hives. Each hive is gently lifted at an angle from the base. If the hive lifts easily, it is light on stores - if it takes some effort to move, we know they still have plenty of food.

Since some of the hives were light, we opted to quickly open these, add some blocks of fondant and close them up again. Fondant is a form of solid sugar block - usually used as a cake icing. It is slightly moist and easily eaten by the bees. Obviously we'd prefer for them to be eating the honey they have stored, but better to give them sugar to eat and make it through the winter, than starve due to a lack of food.

Fortunately all the hives showed activity, and even those that we topped up were a long way from starving, so this is really a belt-and-braces process to get them through to what will hopefully be a nice spring in March.