A sunny winter visit to the Beehaus

Can you spot the Beehaus?
The problem with being a new beekeeper is that you rely on those more experienced than yourself for advice and guidance. This isn't necessarily a problem but there is an old beekeeping adage that goes something like this: Ask six different beekeepers a question and you'll get eight different answers. This makes life as a new beekeeper somewhat challenging – when is the best time to feed syrup or fondant, treat for mites, open the hive etc?

My most recent fear was that the bees could be starving! It's about now when the queen starts laying eggs, which means greater activity in the hive, which means bees will eat their winter stores, which means that if there isn't enough they'll die. Eek! I had put a slab of fondant on top of the frames about three weeks ago when I treated for varroa with oxalic acid but what if the freezing temperatures caused a sugar binge in the hive?

So, today I cut another wodge of fondant and drove over to see them. When I arrived I thought I'd have a quick check at the entrance to see if there was any activity and there was loads with bees going in and out. It was 12 degrees at lunchtime, which is pretty mild. I sat there for awhile and watched them...if only I'd brought a flask of tea I would have sat there for longer in the sunshine.

I took the roof off to see what inroads had been made into the fondant. At first sight it looked like none but when I gently lifted the clingfilm package, there were loads of bees underneath the opening of the crown board nibbling at it. But I certainly didn't need to bring more fondant. I also hefted the hive and it still felt really heavy which means there is still lots of honey stores inside. So, it looks like my bees aren't starving after all. Phew.

But I do want to see what's happening inside the Beehaus but I'm going to have to be patient as I can only start inspections in March. So in the meantime, I'll have to read about bees, go to bee meetings and make honey cake.

Sarah and Ian, my Beehaus landlords, have a beautiful garden and as I was leaving I saw some signs that Spring may be springing soon....


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