A beekeeper asks:
Uncle Drone, I do not seem to be doing anything much with the bees this month – have I been missing something I ought to do?
Uncle Drone answers:
Well, this month and the next two are critical to the survival of the bees this winter. They will be trying to encourage the Queen to lay a few more eggs to replace those workers dying of old age. This uses food which is not being replaced by the flying bees, so depending on the type of bee you have they could use their stores up quickly.
Your task during this month and the next two is to keep track of the food usage of the hives, not by opening them as this could kill them, but by hefting regularly (check the weight) and watching the flying bees on good days. If the weight drops significantly (you should have notes of previous checks on your hive notes) then add fondant packs and monitor how quickly they take this down. By March it should be warm enough to add a warm syrup but do not do this unless the daytime temperatures are reaching 12-15C.
A second and equally important area to keep monitoring is the hive security. Damage can be caused by woodpeckers, wind, excessive rain or impact by branches from overhanging trees, any of which can cause the loss of colonies, so a regular, weekly check (a walk by) is important.
For anyone who missed the broadcast of this programme last Friday evening (2nd August) it is now available on the iPlayer at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b037y0zf/Horizon_20122013_Whats_Killing_Our_Bees_A_Horizon_Special/
An interesting programme that didn’t pretend to find immediate answers but rather pointed to what are likely to be the most significant factors and outlined some of the research being carried out in relation to them. It was good to see that all bees, not just honeybees, were recognised as being affected and thus the increasing impact on our ecology.