The Beekeeping Year
By Pauline Walsh – 3 Counties BKA
We have largely prepared the hives for winter now. The following are jobs which may be necessary if not already done.
Ensure the hives are watertight.
Make sure there is ventilation at the top of the hive by inserting matchsticks under the corners.
This will prevent condensation within the hive.
If not already fitted, put insulation under the roof / on top of the crown board.
Make sure the Varroa floors are turned to reduce the air flow in the hive.
Further reduce the entrance to 40-50 mm for the winter.
Heft hives to ensure that there are sufficient stores.
By now the ivy nectar and pollen should be coming in and if there is a huge flow it may be necessary to add another super to ensure there is space for the queen to lay. If the hives are light, usually because the ivy is not yielding, then be prepared to feed the bees with fondant or syrup.
At this time the only forage for the bees is usually ivy and gorse
NOVEMBER DECEMBER JANUARY
This is the period where very little needs to be done in the apiary. The hives should never be opened.
Periodically heft the hives to assess the stores and feed fondant if necessary and preferably without moving the crown board by using an eke or empty super if needed. Routinely check the apiary for storm damage and that the hives are securely tied down and weighted if necessary.
Observe the entrance for activity.
On warm days you will see bees leaving on cleansing flights and if the weather is dry you may see pollen being brought in, this usually indicates the presence of brood.
Late November and preferably after a period of frost use a sticky board on the floor insert to ascertain the daily mite drop. This will then indicate whether winter treatment is necessary with Apibioxol (oxalic acid being the main ingredient).
If you are looking to split hives or breed queens’ review your hive records to assess your needs and actions.
Buy and build any equipment for the coming year and paint and repair any spare equipment. (Keep eye on sales from suppliers).
Attend any association meetings. Listen to any speakers and more experienced beekeepers and talk to other beekeepers to swap ideas and to gain information.
Prepare a book or sheets for hive records.
Usually by now there is only hazel and willow flowering which only give pollen hence the need to assess the food requirements for the hive.
Later, the early spring bulbs will offer some nectar but not enough to feed the now growing colony.