How busy are the bees in Winter?
With the Winter Solstice yesterday, the days are only getting longer from now. This means that the start of the 2016-2017 honey season isn’t far away! Here’s an idea of what the bees are up to right now, and what they’ll be doing in the next little while!
Eating Honey and Keeping Warm
The brood nest of honey bees likes to be very warm to rear healthy young bees. If there aren’t enough bees in the hive, or it is freezing cold outside (like Winter!) then the queen will slow down her egg laying or even stop. The adult bees eat an enormous amount of honey on those cold Winter days and nights to agitate their bodies, cluster and try and keep the temperature up. That’s why honey production generally stops once the Wintery weather arrives – the bees need all the honey they have just to keep warm!
Honey Flora becomes harder to find
If there aren’t nectar producing flowers within a couple of thousand metres of the hive, the worker bees will not be able to store honey. In the Winter, flowers are few and far between, so it has to be a very mild Winter for bees to profit stores during this time. Once the Blue Gums flower in the Redlands area, it usually starts getting easier for the bees, whose stores are usually slowly decreasing.
What’s the Beekeeper up to?
‘Winter’ is a time to repair all gear, build new boxes, frames and do up new wiring. If the beekeeper can get all this maintenance done, as well as enough new equipment for the coming season, it is possible that the beekeeper might get a holiday – for a few days maybe!
If the beekeeper didn’t leave enough honey on the hives for the bees to eat during Winter (I always leave at least 30kg on a triple production hive) the beekeeper must feed their bees. If the bees run out of food, every last one will perish within a matter of days. My mentor taught me one very important phrase: “Hungry Beekeeper, Hungrier Bees!”
Keep warm, a cold front is due very soon. Perhaps after that, it’s time for me to get back to work and getting the bees built up for a great season!
Lionel and the Pesky Bees