Winter beckons – Autumn heather and ivy now coming to an end

Winter beckons – Autumn heather and ivy now coming to an end

Our bees have been working hard this Autumn. The last few weeks the main foraging has continued to be the ivy and the Autumn heather.

The mild weather has benefitted the bees and all the colonies are strong. A good way to assess each colony on its potential for Winter survival is the number of bees and the amount of honey stores.

Apart from a visible check, probably the best method is to “heft” the hive – i.e. using one hand, lifting the back of the hive a couple of inches off the floor to try and gauge its weight.

After a while one begins to appreciate how a hive well-prepared for winter will seem almost “nailed down” to the stand. All of my colonies apart from one are now on double brood boxes going into winter – and all bar two are very heavy.

I have been feeding the two light colonies with a inverted sugar solution to try and build them up for the Winter.

Yesterday all colonies have also finished their varroa treatment – a six week period of Apiguard gel. This is a natural plant extract of thymol, mixed in a paste. A small tray of this is placed into the hive which the bees then start to clear bit by bit.

Their natural housekeeping spreads the pungent thymol around the hive and it is the vapours of the thymol that kills any varroa mites present in the hive. This is a vital treatment which all colonies in Europe now have to have once a year if they are to be kept free of the mite.

The next few weeks will see the last of the Autumn foraging before the activity winds down almost completely for Winter.

Early morning mist clearing on the river and hives yet to wake up  – activity declining…