The season is almost upon us and we’re all itching to lift that crown board to see what way things are……but we must resist this most evil of temptations!! We can learn all we need to know by simply observing the comings and goings of our hives. We, at the EWBKA, had an excellent talk last week from Irene Power and this was the theme of her talk, Observations Outside the Hive. If there’s pollen going in there’s brood in the hive. I always compare the hive traffic to somebody carrying their shopping from the car to the house. If you see packs of disposable nappies being carried in you can bee fairly sure that there’s a baby indoors! And its the same with pollen and brood. Bees won’t collect pollen unless there’s brood to feed. Now that the catkins are hanging on the willows bees are buzzy carrying the precious pollen to the hungry brood.
Does anyone outside of beekeeping know what “hefting” is? I can remember my father explaining the art of hefting to me and how “You’d know by the veight of it” (to be read with a Dingle accent!). I still remember hefting for the first time. All I knew was that it was quare heavy (to be read with a Wexford accent!). Although, in fairness, having hefted a few hives it was obvious when you had a light one. For those of you who have had a heftless existence to date, hefting is done as follows. Gently, remove the roof from the hive (this is because the weight of roofs of hives vary greatly and, thus, a heavy roof will cause a light hive to feel heavy). Then go to the back of the hive and put your hand under the back of the hive and lift the back of the hive, keeping the front of the hive on the stand. Then you just “feel” the weight of the hive. If the hive feels light then the source of weight is not present i.e. the hive needs food!! Fondant is the best food to give the bees in the spring. Just put about a pound of fondant in a plastic bag, flatten the bejaysus out of it and then cut a window in the bag and place it over the hole in the crown board. Check after a week and repeat if necessary. As this winter has been so mild the bees will have been more active than normal. A mild winter might appear to be good for bees but active bees are hungry and stores can be used up quite quickly. The next four weeks will determine if the bees make it through the winter as the struggle with various diseases and mites but it is a shameful thing if your bees die of hunger. So if in doubt get the fondant out!
A Grand Stretch in the Evenings?
The month of February is when nature’s alarm clock starts ringing. On the 1st of February there are 9 hours of sunlight here in Ireland with the midday sun’s rays hitting us at 20.7 degrees. By the end of February the amount of sunlight has reached 10 hours and 45 minutes and the angle of the midday sun reaching 29.8 degrees. We, as humans with clocks, all talk about the “Stretch in the Evening” but this is not the case for bees. As far as the bees are concerned the day ends at the exact same time every day of the year, at sunset! For bees the change is in the length of the middle of the day, the hottest part of the day, and this is what sets the alarms ringing all over nature. Buds burst open, frogs spawn, insects come out of hibernation and beekeepers think about lifting crown boards! (Resist, Resist!) Also, as the sun is at a more direct angle the intensity of the heat is more……intense! (Just as a matter of interest on Midsummer’s Day, 21st of June, there are 16 hours and 47 minutes of sunshine in Ireland and the midday sun beams down at 61.2 degrees while on 21st of December there are a mere 7 hours and 42 minutes of sunshine hitting us at an acute 14.4 degrees)
So, until the next time ….Bee Well!!