Winter Preparations begin

One secret to successful beekeeping which it took me a couple of years to learn, is preparing well for the coming seasons.

A mistake made in my second year was allowing a number of weak colonies through Autumn and into Winter. I had wanted to keep up my number of hives – which I hard worked hard on during  the Summer months. We hit a long cold spell the following March which polished off half of my colonies. Lesson learned.

It is vital to enter Winter with strong hives holding plenty of stores and plenty of bees to ensure a successful hibernation through the potentially cold and lean months.

If this means having a smaller number of stronger colonies – then so be it.

A large colony will insulate itself well, forming a football-sized grouping in the centre of the brood box.

With this in mind last week, I merged four colonies. I had 2 weak colonies on double broods, the lower brood box of both virtually empty, but the top box stuffed with honey stores.

I removed the lower boxes from both, put them into storage for next season,  and set about combining the residual colonies  – along with their good honey stores – with 2 strong single brood box colonies.

Here are some pictures of one of the mergers completed this week to show the process:

In the first photo taken through the transparent cover board,  the diminished number of bees is evident.IMG_1609

This colony was then moved last thing in the evening, when all the foraging bees had returned and settled in for the night.

It was placed on top of the strong colony, separated by a single sheet of newspaper.

This separation is important to allow the two colonies to become accustomed to each others scent – otherwise there would be an instant massive scrap with both colonies possibly annihilating each other. The newspaper barrier also acts as a distraction for the bees as they hate any “foreign” material in their hives, and they start to work together to get rid of it.

This photos show the two colonies stacked one on the other – as in a conventional double brood – with the newspaper edge showing between the boxes.IMG_1615

2 days later a quick check at the top shows the difference with a successful merger having taken place.IMG_1617

The newspaper has been shredded nicely and I removed the remnants quickly, not wanting to disturb the bees any more than necessary.

The expelled newspaper “fluff”  can be seen under the hive.

I will inspect the colony properly in a weeks time

The strong queen usually kills the weaker….so fingers crossed this has happened.