Guest post by Education Officer – Cilla Platt

Feeding the hives with syrup at the training apiary

Honey extraction for the year should now be safely over!

Entrance blocks should have gone on the front of the hives at the time of removing your supers of honey. The smell of honey in the air sends our little friends into a frenzy looking for the free goodies. At this point weak colonies can be robbed out. Making the front entrances small, means that the guard bees have less trouble defending the hive.

Supers that have been extracted can be placed over a crown board and under the roof, back on the hives, to be cleaned by the bees. The holes in the crown board are left open. After about a week, place ‘Porter Escapes’ in those holes and clear the bees out. Again, after a few days, the cleared supers can be removed, taking care not to let the bees get back in during removal!

To store your supers till next year, you can stack them in your shed, as long as you treat them to prevent wax moth destroying the comb. I would say use Certan, but am unsure whether you can still buy it? Another method is to stack outside, up on bricks or similar, preferably with fine wire mesh under the bottom box. As long as we get a few frosts, that will deter wax moth. Unfortunately, these mild winters have given the destructive offspring of these insects a much longer breeding period and comb can come out of this sort of storage, rather frilly.

All the equipment should be well washed in cold water. Cold, because wax and propolis will smear with warm water. Every vestige of stickiness should be rinsed away. If you do not, there will be an unpleasant dribble of black water in crevices which will taint your next batch of honey if left unseen.

Bottling and labelling your honey is a whole subject on its own. I will say though, that there are strict regulations about labelling, which everyone on the Beginners Course will have a leaflet about. Always keep at the front of your mind that this is a food which you are selling, or even if you give it away. No one likes to find a hair or unidentifiable bits in it!

Jars should sparkle and not be sticky, and lids should not be rusty.

When removing your honey crop, think about those who have provided it! Make absolutely sure that you leave them with stores to carry on their day to day lives. If you are removing your crop in one go now at the end of August/ beginning of September, which is the most popular way, you must next think about getting your bees ready for winter.

To get your bees ready for our long, often mild wet winter, they will need plenty of stores. They may be gathering from late flowers such as bramble, clover, fuchsia and any garden flowers not wiped out by our salty autumn gales. This is good. But if they are not benefiting from these late flowers then feed sugar syrup.

The syrup should be made from 2kg sugar to 1litre hot water. Stir till all dissolved. Bees love their syrup warm, but do not burn their little mouths! This is thick syrup which means less work for your bees to convert into a storable honey substitute. Only feed when all supers used by bees to store honey during the summer season, have been taken off the hive and put in to storage. Once you start to feed keep the flow going until they sit back replete, or you decide the hive is heavy enough (see below). Finish feeding by the middle of October when it starts to get too cold for the bees to process your offering.

Heft the hive before feeding. If your hive of one brood box, is a struggle to lift when using your fingers under the back of the hive, then they have enough stores. If not, then feed syrup until that happy state is reached. Hefting is a simple and none intrusive way to check on whether your bees need help during the winter months. So, heft regularly! At the same time as you check that the wind has not blown your hives over!

Fondant is a stand by only. Make it yourself, or buy some if you find your hive going light (hefting) any time during the winter period. It is most likely from end of February and during March. The weather, as we know is very variable then. Most colony losses occur then when the beekeeper has switched off from their bees.

There is much more to be said on all the above. Do read around the subjects. But don’t panic, and enjoy your bees!


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