A sure sign that the beekeeping season is ending is when you finally ‘winterise’ your beehives; helping the bees through the winter months.
Bees don’t hibernate over winter, they cluster together inside the hive keeping warm and snacking on the honey they have produced over the summer. They have survived for millions of years without beekeepers but there are some things we can do to make their lives a little easier.
Across the front of the hives we place metal strips with holes drilled in them – called mouse guards. You don’t need to be a beekeeper to quickly grasp what these do. Mice like warm places, ideally with food – a wooden hive is both warm and has lots of food available. As surprising at it may sound mice can live in a beehive with the 10,000 winter bees snacking on both the honey and indeed the bees.
The holes in the mouse guard are big enough for the bees to get in and out but just small enough to stop Mickey and his mates getting in.
Woodpeckers are a problem as well, Green ones in particular. The birds eat insects and some learn that these small, square and leafless trees have thousands of tasty bees inside; all they have to do is drill a hole to have lunch. To protect the hives, we wrap them in wire, keeping the woodpeckers at bay.
This transformation from charming beehives to something akin to a high security penitentiary is somewhat depressing to me. It means that the season is over and I’m making that transition from keeping bees to listening and talking about bees as I attend as many winter talks held by my local associations as possible
Most groups hold monthly meetings with guess speakers over the winter months, if you’ve never attended one I urge you to do so. Not only do you pick up all sort of useful tips and tricks but you also widen your circle of friends – which is never a bad thing.
As I wrapped my beehives in steal and wire two things cheered me up. Firstly there were bees still bringing in bright yellow pollen, a good indication that the colony was is decent shape.
I was also, rather surprisingly, reunited with my long lost hive tool!
I cannot express how delighted I was to find this, my first hive tool. The tool I cracked my first hive open with and that supported me through countless inspections. I lost it last year and at every inspection since I mourned its lost. Amazingly as I finished wrapping my hive in a winter coat of wire I spotted a glint of yellow under the hive floor and there it was my long lost friend
I’m taking this as a good omen for next season.