All quiet around the hive

Brood frame

Bees back in September showing brood cells, capped and uncapped honey

Such a long time since I’ve updated this blog. Back in October, once the Apiguard treatment was completed, I started feeding the bees again with sugar syrup. They got through a total of  15kg of sugar in syrup form.

As I started with this colony late in the season (the end of July) I worry about the bees having enough food stores (most new beekeepers seem to worry about their bees!). So it was back to the kitchen to make fondant. To make this you dissolve sugar in water with a teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar to make a syrup, then boil until it reaches 112C. You then whisk it until it goes white with air bubbles. I put a lump of this fondant, once set, in the hive. The bees, so far have eaten about half a kilo of this. Fondant is fed to bees during colder months because it has a lower water content than sugar syrup. When bees store the syrup, they have to evaporate some of the water before it can be capped (sealed with wax). They do this by fanning it with their wings. This is harder for them to do in cold weather.

I fitted a mouse guard across the hive entrance in December. Mice apparently find beehives an attractive home for the winter – warm and plenty of food. They can squeeze in through very small holes and wreak havoc. The metal mouse guard has 9mm holes.

I haven’t opened the hive (apart from taking of the roof for a quick peek) since October but I’ve been checking regularly, seeing if there is still fondant left, listening for signs of life within and removing the occasional dead bee from the hive entrance. One day last week it was dry and a mild 10 degrees C and when I checked the hive I could see a few bees coming and going. So, some are still alive, just hope the queen is still in there.

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Progress?

Feeder

The bees have now got through 6 kg of sugar. The photo shows the feeder containing sugar syrup. This is made by dissolving 2lbs of sugar in a pint of warm water. The feeder is then placed over a hole in the crown board so that bees can get into the feeder from the brood chamber. The feeder is checked, and topped up if needed, in the evening when the bees are all in for the day. This minimises the risk of robbers (other bees or wasps) being attracted to the hive whilst you are filling the feeder. The good thing about this feeder is that when you take off the roof of the hive to have a look, the bees can’t get out, so no need to get all the protective gear on.

The weather has been a mixed bag for the past few weeks with showers most days. I do see the bees bringing back a lot of pollen and when we opened the hive yesterday we could see the stores of pollen. The bees seem to have been busy drawing out the wax foundation but no sign of the queen laying in any of the new frames – only in the 5 original ones. Is this normal? No idea. Comments from the more experienced are welcome.