Into the dark of winter

The winter preparations for our hives continue. Mouseguards are on and sugar syrup feeding has finished. Tom Bickerdike has been helping Emma and me out by adding insulation to our hive roofs, sealing it in with an extra wooden layer.  Below you can see him posing with insulation with a hole cut in for fondant.

Tom with insulated roof

Last week Tom visited the National Honey Show with John Chapple. He and John were both impressed with this bee gym equipment. The name conjures up images of the bees lifting weights and doing gymnastics on mini trampolines, doesn’t it? Also the design reminds me of a boxing ring!


The idea is actually that the bee gym is placed on the hive floor, where the bees give themselves a good scratch up against the threads and those little plastic crescents or “flippers” you can see below. Like a cow trying to relieve an itch by rubbing their backs on a beehive, the bees apparently love to rub their abdomen up and down these things.
Bee gym 2

The bee gym may even be an effective way for the bees to shift varroa mites from their backs, as its creator Stuart Roweth has found numbers of mites dropped to be higher below the gyms. Stuart has given Tom and John Chapple a gym each so that they can test out whether they get the same results.

You can find out more about the bee gym at The Contacts page says “Bee Gyms are available to beekeepers who would like to try this approach to Varroa control as part of our current trials.”

Guinness and chocolate cake

Last week I made this chocolate and Guinness cake, a Hummingbird Bakery recipe. I was pleased with its complex, rich and boozy flavour. Whilst still warm it reminded me of Christmas pudding; Drew said molten chocolate fudge cake. A little goes a long way!

Fairground ride

I also tried out some long exposure photography and took this photo of a Fairground ride at the Southbank.

The days are drawing in now. It is dark when I leave for work in the morning and dark when I leave work at night. I go outside on my lunch break to try and get some daylight. Do the bees miss the sun as they huddle together in the winter, I wonder?

About Emily Scott

I am a UK beekeeper who has recently moved from London to windswept, wet Cornwall. I first started keeping bees in the Ealing Beekeepers Association’s local apiary in 2008, when I created this blog as a record for myself of my various beekeeping related disasters and - hopefully! - future successes.
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29 Responses to Into the dark of winter

  1. Bee Gym? Chocolate & Guinness cake? What a beguiling combination! RH


  2. Kathy Harp says:

    Thanks for showing the picture of the insulation in the lid with the cut out for fondant…I’ll show it to my hubby. The Guiness chocolate cake sounds delicious!


  3. solarbeez says:

    The bee gym is an interesting idea. They work so hard in trying to remove that mite on their back. I’ve seen some video of them being successful, but they expend so much energy in doing so. I’d sure like to see something like this being successful, so miti-cides wouldn’t have to be used. Do they have any video of bees scraping off mites by using the bee gym?


    • Emily Heath says:

      I thought so too, especially as it can be left in all year round. I would expect it to be one of a number of ‘soft’ anti-varroa treatments I’d use though, rather than the only one.

      The website has some videos of the bee gym being used, but I don’t know whether they show any mites being dislodged: Maybe try watching the second ‘Strings’ video, as the description for that mentions the mites.


  4. The bee gym seems a good idea, the mites must be irritating.


  5. daveelliott says:

    The cake looks (and sounds) fantastic, very jealous!


  6. Love your Blog emily – one of the better blogs about beekeeping anywhere on the web!

    I saw the bee gym at the honey show too – what a clever idea


  7. I did not know the bees try to remove mites. What a great idea for anything that can help them. I really like your long exposure shot. Nice job.


    • Emily Heath says:

      I am not sure how aware they are of the mites, as at one talk I went to it was mentioned that varroa mites give off a pheromone to disguise their presence. But perhaps they can sense some kind of itch or weight on their back. It always feels good to have a good old back scratch!


  8. Alex Jones says:

    I was amused by the concept of a “bee gym” which if it makes happier healthier bees is a great innovation.


  9. Emily, once again I am deeply wistful that none of MY beekeeping buddies brings me cakes in the apiary! A most excellent tradition! But more importantly, thankyou for the heads up on Stuart Roweth’s bee gym. It sounds fantastic, on every level, and I hope Stuart lets me demo them in my apiary in 2014. This could revolutionize Varroa control methods.


  10. Do you find your bees require the extra insulation, weather being what it is around your way? I love the idea of the bee gym. I confess I’ll leave stuff in the hive (cardboard, extra bits of brace comb etc) to give them some extra activities. But they might have more fun in the gym…


    • Emily Heath says:

      We are probably warmer in London than you are in the Fens, but it never hurts to keep them as warm as possible. Never thought of leaving them bits and pieces to play with! Though we have left a Christmas card before.


  11. Great Post! The Bee Gym looks really neat. I am excited to hear how well it works as I am always looking for natural solutions to pests in my hives. Thanks for all of the great information that you share on this blog!


  12. karcuri13 says:

    The Bee Gym looks cool. I’m definitely interested to see how future tests go. Anything to help get rid of those pesky mites.


  13. P&B says:

    The inner insulation with a hole cut out for fondant is such a great idea.


  14. Bee gyms and cake…I can’t decide whether I’d rather be a bee or a keeper in your apiary! (Both jobs seem pretty good to me.) 🙂


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