Today I popped down quickly to see my bees, or at least their hive. With the drop in temperature the apiary was completely still, with no bees flying at all that I could see. The snow’s melted by now, so I wasn’t able to take a pretty picture of snow-topped hives (unlike The Surrey Beekeeper, who has taken some stunning ones), but here’s what their Christmas fondant looks like:
I lifted it up quickly to see if they’d been nibbling on it, but there were no signs that they had. They have two brood boxes of honey stores, so perhaps they’d rather have yummy flowery tasting honey than boring sugar fondant. They will not be eating very much in general, as during winter they huddle together in a rugby-ball shaped mass and slow their activities right down to a point where they are nearly comatose. If you’re interested, the Brockwell Park Community London beekeepers have written a great blog post (Candy is dandy) explaining why we feed bees fondant and not honey.
Here’s what the varroa board’s looking like:
The way the pollen has fallen tells me they’re clustering towards the middle front of the hive at the moment. The clusters position changes as the bees eat their stores in one part of the hive and slowly move on to another. Somewhere in the middle of the cluster, in the warmest position, will be the queen. Like penguins huddling together, the bees on the outside become colder than those on the inside so now and again they rotate positions. There seemed to be less varroa on the board than previously – about 50 in two weeks – which is encouraging.
Yesterday was the Ealing Beekeepers Association annual Christmas party, which was a lot of fun. One of the beekeepers told me about beekeeping in Iran, where he used to live. In certain parts of Iran the winter is too cold to keep the bees outside, so beekeepers bring the bees inside a dark room in their houses, until the weather is warm enough for them to be brought outside again. As the room is dark and the bees usually only fly during the day, during this time the bees do not leave the hive for their normal cleansing flights to defecate, so as soon as they’re brought out again they are in a furious mood and go mad at the beekeeper whilst pooing everywhere!