Thursday, 9 February 2012

honeybees in winter

Our cold spell continues.

And up at Corwood, the beehives shiver.

Here you see the hives wrapped in a protective mesh coat to prevent hungry woodpeckers hammering through the sides of the hive in winter to get a tasty and nourishing meal of bee larvae and honey. Devastating for the colony and expensive for the beekeeper.

This cold weather seems the antithesis of everything a bee should need ... but at this time of year, this is exactly what they want. Within the hive, the bees will be clustered into a tight ball, conserving heat and saving energy. They do not hibernate but become torpid in cold weather, slowing their metabolism.

Apart from woodpeckers, the enemies of bees in winter are damp and mild weather.

In damp weather, disease can take hold and weaken the colony, sometimes fatally.

Mild weather encourages the bees to become active, going out on unproductive foraging flights and exhausting their food stores of honey that will be needed to kick start the colony when spring arrives properly.

The hives have each had a feed of sugar to supplement the honey stores, but so far, this hasn't been touched.

With luck, the cold weather will keep the bees dormant for several more weeks until the early spring flowers and their nourishing nectar will begin to show.

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