‘Sugar dough’ helps your bees through the winter months

By GEM Community Correspondent in Local People

NEWS FROM THE FONMON APIARY by Harold Williams

Winter seems to have arrived of late, with easterly winds reducing temperatures to single figures, confining the bees to the hives.

However, Snowdrops are beginning to make their appearance so spring must be just around the corner. External checks are carried out at all of the apiaries on a regular basis to ensure all is as it should be.

In what we might call a normal year, winter should be a period when the bees settle into their survival mode.

They form a cluster, no regular external activity takes place and providing that they have in house stores (honey/pollen) they are well able to survive until the days start to lengthen and temperatures rise.

When winter conditions do prevail the beekeeper can get a little anxious and wonder if his/her colonies have come through the past 4/5 months.

The urge to open up a hive and check if all is well must be resisted.

It is not unusual to have one or two colonies die out. Why is this? Well the beekeeper may well be the cause by failing to provide for the welfare of the bees, or a colony might be too weak to stand the rigours of winter.

After all, winter does spell death for the weaklings of all species.

Alternatively, because of the mild conditions the bees have responded and lots of external activity has been observed. As I have pointed out previously, for bees to be active they require a food source to supply them with energy.

Where does the food supply come from? The in house stores!

Here at Fonmon I have a nucleus; this is a small box with a Queen and around 2,000 bees in it and so far I have been able to aid them in their winter survival by regular feeding.

The food I am giving them is called sugar dough and it looks just like readymade icing. It is, however, specially prepared for bees and they can consume it right off without having to process it in anyway.

The recent cold snap has caused all activity to cease, hence no feeding, but temperatures are set to rise so they may make it yet.

All in all things are looking pretty good, a warm spring will be a big help as a good number of new beekeepers are signed up for the courses run by the society.

For them to get hands on experience we require fair weather to enable the hives to be opened up. It is at this stage that these new beekeepers will find out if they are comfortable with their desire to become a beekeeper, as an active hive of bees is not everyone’s cup of tea.

I am of course regularly checking on the Varroa Mites. Others do believe that their colonies are free of mites and they do not have a problem.

There are even those who believe the Varroa comes in on equipment ie, hive boxes and frames. This is not likely because the mite can only survive if bees are present. No bees = No mites!

The introduction of swarms to an apiary will bring in Varroa Mites. The Varroa is a worldwide problem and that is a fact.

Harold Williams.

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