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This Month in the Apiary

In the Apiary November

At this time of year work in the Apiary starts to wind down, however there are still a number of important jobs to get on with. A hive needs a good store of food and protection, i.e. Bees, need to be protected from predators. A thorough cleaning is also required of all equipment so it’s ready to use next year. It is also useful to think about what additional equipment you may need.

As the temperature falls, typically 18 C, the bees tend to start to cluster, eventually forming into a tight ball and maintaining something like 35C in the brood box. Most of the bees will now be the longer lived winter bees and they may survive until the following spring. Of course when it’s warmer the bees will be out collecting nectar and pollen from ivy and as the bees start eating the food stores they will also need access to water.

Preparation of course started in August and September when we were ensuring the colonies were healthy and had good food stores typically 20Kgm. A hive of bees and stores are an attraction to wildlife and though when they are active they are able to fend them off, when they are clustered they are less able to defend themselves or their stores.

Mice are the obvious culprits so it’s important to fit mouse guards as soon as the temperatures drop. Woodpeckers are also fond of bees and their honey and once the frosts arrive and they can no longer dig for ants they can turn their attention to our hives. They can quickly damage a hive and destroy a colony. Though wire netting can be used we have found a plastic sack stapled around the brood box is very effective as are strips stapled to the edge of the roof.

Wasps can still be active until the first frost so keeping the entrance small will enable a strong colony to keep them out.

Good ventilation is essential to prevent mould building up in the hive. In fact damp conditions are more harmful than cold. Open mesh floors normally give adequate ventilation. However, when using solid floors it can help to place match sticks under the corners of the crown board.

Though treatment for Varroa should have been completed its sensible to continue to check on any signs of problems.

Ivy flowers at this time of year produces large quantities of nectar. Because it primarily contains glucose it tends to crystallise quickly, however the bees appear to cope with it as long as the winter isn’t too harsh.

It’s a good idea to continue feeding with a quality inverted syrup i.e. Ambrosia, until the bees stop taking it and a good indicator is that the brood should weigh 8Kg (40lb). This is assumming you are using a national hive.

The other concern is the storage of Super frames once the honey has been extracted. They can easily attract wax moth which seems prevalent this year. Spraying the frames with Certan can help as is keeping the frames air tight. This can save heart ache next season. It’s also advisable to check them occasionally.

Good luck and look out for the next chat, hope to see many of you at the shop and to hear all is going well with the bees and your honey year.

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