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Protecting the Bees from other creatures

In autumn, bees robbing from each others hives can be a problem. Bees and wasps from other hives will try to rob honey in order to stock up their own reserves. This is best controlled by reducing the entrance size of the hive in order that the guard bees can control (and stop) any foreigner from entering the colony.

Sufficient stores should be left for the bees, by the end of August to early September. At the end of September feed is added, this consists of sugar syrup put in a container above the crown board, which allows the bees to eat the syrup through the winter. You can also use bakerís fondant, this is like the icing you get on top of iced cakes. The early part of winter is a good time to treat bees for any disease or illnesses, this ensures they are healthy for next season. Damp or moisture is very often the killer of the colony, it is advisable to have the hive well ventilated.

Honey Bees eating Baker's Fondant

It is also a good time to fit a mouseguard, this is a grill that fits over the entrance of the hive and stops mice entering the hive through the winter, but allows the bees to enter or leave freely.

This piece of apparatus is to prevent the mice getting into the hive and setting up home. It goes across the hive entrance during winter months and is held in place by a couple of drawing pins. They will kill the bees and damage the frames and wax, if they do not kill the bees it compromises their health. It is also advisable to strap the hive down and together to survive strong winter winds. Beekeepers also have to be aware of the Wax Moth.

A Wax Moth
A Wax Moth

Damage caused by a Wax Moth
Damage caused by a Wax Moth

Wax moths get into the hive and lay their eggs in the wax comb, which causes damage and collapse of the waxed frames. The wax moth tunnels under capped honeycomb and make it completely unuseable.

To survive the winter the colony reduces to about 10,000 bees with the older bees being thrown out and left to die. The remainder stay in a tight cluster around the queen, they keep the centre of the cluster to around 65°F (17°C). Around December they increase the temperature to 92°F (33°C) allowing the queen to start laying in January.

The bees regulate the temperature inside the hive throughout the year by fanning their wings and clustering. The outer bees of the cluster rotate with the inner bees, this helps to keep all the bees warm and regulate the temperature. They will move around the hive in a cluster, if the winter food is difficult to reach the workers will not leave the queen and could die of starvation.

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