Dear Auntie Bee
With all this warm weather my bees are continuing to fly and while hefting the hives they are beginning to feel lighter than they did one month ago when I’d finished feeding.
I have read on beekeeping blogs that beekeepers are putting fondant on their hives but I’ve also read that this can cause dysentery.
What would you advise?
Yes the warm weather this autumn has meant the bees were flying on many days in November and there is still activity in the middle of the day in December. There is a little pollen coming into hives which may indicate the queens are laying and the bees will need to use stores to get energy for foraging flights to support the growing larvae. This means that rather than being in a tight cluster and using very little stores, the bees may be using their winter stores at the same rate they might in early Spring when there is always a risk of them running out of food and starving.
I would certainly add a slab of fondant at this stage if you have any doubt about the stores in the hive. Fondant can be purchased in bulk from bakers or from any supermarket in small amounts but be careful that it contains no preservatives or other additives. There are also recipes on line for making your own but avoid adding vinegar and you need a jam thermometer as the temperature is critical to get a soft set final product.
I recommend wrapping fondant in cling film and placing it on top of the crown board partially or nearly over the hole. Make a small access hole in the clingfilm and then look every week by raising the roof, to see if the bees are taking it. The film will prevent the fondant drying out and if the bees eat it it’s easy to add some more. If the weather gets very cold for a prolonged period then the fondant can be moved to under the crown board making it easier for the cluster to access.
As always, every season is different and we have to be aware of and responsive to the bees’ needs.
Not long now to the new season