It’s the last day of 2012 and the looming year ahead seems to hold so many possibilities. I don’t know about you but I’m excited for a fresh new start and to get back to work. You can only eat so many chocolates and spend so many days lounging around before it starts to get boring and you start to feel guilty about all the things you need to get done. I’ve got lots to do with my bath and beauty business but on top of that I can’t help thinking about my garden and plans we have for the spring. It’s always at this time of year that I start to feel the days getting a little bit lighter, though deep inside I know that the coldest days of winter are still ahead.
My garden has a good way of bringing me back to reality every time I look out the window though. Barren earth in the raised beds and perennial herbs hanging on for dear life. The hens haven’t laid a single egg since the end of October either, preferring to gobble up their warm breakfasts and camp inside the coop for most of the day. My wormery composter has also slowed down so most of our kitchen scraps are being fed to the hens or going directly into the soil now. My honeybees on the other hand are still very much active and feeding on their supplies of honey laid down months ago.
The green hive still has a bit of honey left in the super in addition to their stores in their brood box.
I sometimes ask people who come to my farmers market stall if they know why honeybees are the only bees that make honey. Usually the person I’m chatting to is initially shocked to learn that bumblebees have nothing to do with the honey-making process. Then they suddenly light up to realise that they’ve eaten honey all their lives without questioning its initial purpose. The reason that honeybees create honey is that it’s a long-term food supply that will keep them fed through the winter. Unlike other bees and insects that hibernate in winter, honeybees are awake throughout the year and need to eat in order to stay active, warm, and alive.
Honeybees are active all winter long and will even fly around on a nice day
If you’ve been reading about my bees before this post you’ll know that I have two hives, one which is doing great and has laid down a really decent supply of honey. The other has struggled since it raised a new Queen in July and hadn’t even filled the last frame in the brood box up, even though I’ve been feeding it with buckets of sugar-syrup. Because of my worries about this white hive I’ve been going out every few weeks to have a look to see how both colonies are doing. You can quickly open and check your hives in winter just as long as it’s a calm day and the temperature is at least 10C/50F.
The white hive has smaller numbers and more issues with food storage than the green hive
As expected, the green hive is doing just fine and they still have a half-frame of honey left in super, in addition to what’s in the brood box. The bees themselves are still in decent numbers and come out to have a look at what’s going on when I tap the side of the hive. The white hive, on the other hand, has been much more lethargic and not as bothered about what I was doing around their home. I believe the reason for this was their food supply running out already.
The first bowl of fondant was discovered with quite a few dead bees in it after the first week
So a couple of weeks before Christmas I bought some simple bakers fondant (essentially sugar), heated it and then poured the entire pack into a a plastic bowl and placed it in the hungry hive. I’ve learned that fondant is better feed for bees in the winter since they can eat it immediately rather than having to be processed into honey. The next week I went to have a quick peek to see how they were getting on and was horrified to find that quite a few bees were lying dead along the edges of the fondant. I whipped that bowl out and disposed of its contents when I got home. On a positive note, the colony in general seemed a lot more energetic and back to its aggressive self.
After the first fondant experience I bought specially made ‘Bee-Fondant’ to feed them
I’m not sure if the dead bees resulted from the fondant recipe or from becoming stuck in it since many of their legs looked frozen into the edges. To be on the safe side I decided to purchase some product created specifically for bees. When it arrived in it’s large 2.5kg bag I placed some of it into two small baggies and then tied the tops off. When I placed the bags into the hive I made sure to snip the tops off so the bees could have access to the sweet filling.
It looks like we’re in for some windy weather this week so I’m not likely to be able to check in on the colony until Friday. I hope the little buzzers are fine though and that they haven’t eaten through all their food again. I’ll be bringing more when I visit next so hopefully they can hold on until then.
I hope you’ve had a wonderful Christmas holiday so far and a fabulous New Years Eve and Day in store. Take care and see you in the new year! 🙂