Happy New Year everyone! December here in London was unusually warm, with a high of 16°C (60.8°F) recorded at Kew Gardens. This has caused the bees to go through their stores faster than usual and also encouraged them to go foraging when they should really be tucked up inside conserving their energy. Back on the 19th December I needed my bee suit as so many bees were flying and even returning with two colours of pollen!
Above is a hole one of our hives had made in their fondant. It’s lovely to put your hand on the plastic over the cluster and feel how warm it is. By the way they do also have plenty of honey stores, but they seem to like to go up to the top of the hive where it’s warm. Our colonies do this every winter.
Jonesy’s hive had eaten up all their fondant in under a month! You can also see that they’d even started building a bit of comb in the empty packet.
The warm autumn/winter has caused more drones to be around than usual – I spotted this live one on the roof of a hive. He was in good condition so must have been expelled recently.
Another hive had all these ex-drones stuck in the mouse guard. They looked recently dead.
Snowdrops were peeking through the earth at the apiary a month earlier than usual and daffodils have been spotted in London. There are pros and cons to all this for the bees –
- A warm winter allows the bees to raise more brood – useful if you want to get a spring honey crop
- The bees can take more cleansing flights which helps with hive hygiene and makes disease outbreaks less likely
- Risk of starvation increases if we don’t keep an eye on them
- Less likely to be a brood break to help keep varroa numbers down
- Warm weather encourages bees to fly even though not much forage is available
- Brood raising and foraging will reduce the usual longer lifespan of winter bees
Any others I’ve missed? Or any you disagree with?
Northern England has been suffering floods, so I know I’m lucky to have only warm weather to worry about. One beekeeper posted on the BBKA Forum “having to do emergency beehive move tomorrow now I can get to the hives, due to flooding and a stream breach……too dangerous to try to get to them before and also had a cowshed 2ft under water to sort out with 30 cows in it, which had to take priority”. Thirty cows to worry about on top of potentially water-logged bees, can you imagine? At 1.05 on this video you can see a brief clip about the effect the floods had on a York beekeeping business: UK floods.
If I could ask my cat Bob what weather he likes best, I think he’d go with warm and cosy please. Me too Bob, me too.