Endurance and hope

January is a stern month. The festivities of Christmas have passed and many of us are left feeling plumper and poorer. A time for austerity and cutting back, combined with chilling days that cut through to our fingers and whistle past our ears.

But the bees know that the days are getting longer. Becoming not darker but lighter. Whether bee or human, the winter solstice has passed and spring is coming, if we can just wait a little longer and keep nibbling away in the dark. It was warm for January yesterday, around 11°C (51.8°F), so the bees at the apiary were taking full advantage of this chance to clear their bowels.

Poly nuc

Inside the poly nuc, the bees are very active across all five frames. Lots of condensation, so it must be warm in there. I am not sure whether a warm January is a good thing as it will cause them to go through their stores more quickly. They have fondant so I’ll keep an eye out to make sure it doesn’t run out.

Poly nuc close up

In our full sized hive Emma has carried out John Chapple’s trick of putting two Ambrosia fondant bags on top of each other, with a hole punched between them so the bees can get in both. This much fondant should be enough to last the bees until the spring forage begins. Through this sugary double layer I was able to take a photo from above before the bees realised and started flying up.

Bees in fondant

And just poking out from the apiary ground I found these snowdrop shoots. Told you spring is coming.

Snowdrop shoots

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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32 Responses to Endurance and hope

  1. Lovely to see the bees doing so well Emily. They looked in good shape during the oxalic treatment and great to know they are continuing to do so. All your queens are special but knowing where the nuc was at, towards the end of last year and where it is now, Hope (I think that’s right) looks like she is a very special queen.


  2. Lovely post, Emily…did you have cake?! One of my beekeeping friends has just bought the Paradise polystyrene nuc setup…looks really amazing, so I think I will try the full hive setup too. What has your experience been with the poly equipment?


    • Emily Scott says:

      We did have cake – a fruity mincemeat one 🙂 And tea of course. I hadn’t heard of the Paradise hive before but the photos online look very smart. The poly equipment has worked well for us so far. Remember to weigh it down with bricks just in case you get strong winds.


  3. Oh your spring is coming! I am so pleased as i will be in London in a month. Your bees being above and well fed is the best thing to hear! c


  4. Ron Miksha says:

    Nice piece! Those of us over here in Canada forget how far north England is! I’m in Calgary, 200 km north of Montana. Our nights are dreadfully long. But Southampton (on the southern English coast) is exactly the same latitude as Calgary. So, you get long, long winter nights up where you are – yet you’ve got plus 11 C while we’ve been at minus 20 C for weeks!

    It’s great to see that your bees break cluster, take cleansing flights, and get to see the snowdrop shoots in January! With the longer days, it almost looks like spring as arrived!


    • Emily Scott says:

      We are lucky with our relative warmth then! Daylight lasts between around 8am-4.15pm at the moment. Could be worse but there are lots of office workers who barely get to see daylight at this time of year unless they go outside for their lunch break. Would love to visit beautiful Canada one day. I hear such good things about it from everyone who’s been.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love your opening sentence “January is a stern month”!
    It’s about the same temperature down here in Devon and only yesterday I saw a tree with pink blossom and quite a few honeybees foraging, also, by the sea, bumblebees quite active, so it all moves along.


  6. Erik says:

    What a great post. I made my wife listen to some of it, just had to share your way with words. Thank you for sharing, especially the snowdrops!

    I have seen a few authors say that bees may handle warm weather in winter better than we think. While they eat more when active, they don’t have to work as hard to keep the hive warm. In cold weather they use more stores to heat the hive, so it balances out. From an evolutionary perspective it makes sense that winter bees have learned to go easy in warm weather.


  7. beatingthebounds says:

    Spring is coming. It really is. What a wonderful thought; I’m already excited.


  8. Wendy says:

    It’s great to see your bees doing well over the winter. That is interesting about the two Ambrosia bags together, from talking around I know many colonies are hungry at the moment so that’s a tip to bear in mind.
    Green shoots are coming up here too!


  9. “Spring is coming” suggests there is a “Game of Drones” joke to be made.


  10. Pingback: Snowdrops – Here We Bee

  11. I am of the same mind about seeing bees out and about–relieved they are alive but worried about their stores. So we’ll be supplying them with fondant. Snow drop buds and others peaking though here in the Fens…


  12. P&B says:

    Very happy to see your hives are doing well. Is the plastic over the hive in the first photo part of the hive or you put it on for observation? I try to figure out how to open a hive in early spring without reducing temperature in that hive. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily Scott says:

      Thank you! The plastic over the poly nuc in the first photo comes with the nuc, it is a clear crownboard which allows you to see inside without having to lift the crownboard up. Traditionally crownboards are wooden. I’m not sure if you use them in your part of the world or if they have a different name.


  13. P&B says:

    Thank you. I don’t think we have that here. It’s a great way to observe the hive without disturbing them, especially when the temperature is just a little above 50F.


  14. I am glad your poly nuc is doing well. We have a couple we have used for swarms but neither of them was supplied with a clear crown board which seems a good idea. It would be very useful to check on how swarms or splits are progressing. Amelia


  15. Pingback: Endurance | Abiding Hope

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  17. Pingback: Endurance and hope | Raising Honey Bees

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